The last time Marshall and Middle Tennessee State matched up on the hardwood, the Raiders dished out an old-fashioned butt whipping in Murfreesboro.
Marshall (11-10, 7-1) returned the favor Thursday night at the Cam Henderson Center with an 82-66 thrashing of MTSU (14-6, 6-2), snapping the Raiders' six-game winning streak. Five Herd players finished in double-figures in the win, led by Stevie Browning's team-high 15 points. C.J. Burks added 12 points off the bench and Jon Elmore tallied 12 points and a career-high nine assists.
Marshall held the league's leading 3-point shooting team to a season-low 18.8 percent (3-of-16) while holding the Raiders' leading scorer Giddy Potts to 10 points in only 17 minutes of action.
"I thought we did an outstanding job of limiting their chances," Marshall head coach Dan D'Antoni said. "Stevie Browning did an excellent job defensively against (Giddy) Potts. Our ball movement was terrific I'm proud of our performance even though we did not shoot the ball well."
A slow start by the Herd gave the Raiders a 7-3 lead at the first media timeout, with Marshall's only points coming off a Ryan Taylor 3-point play. Out of the timeout, Marshall exploded on a 7-0 run led by a James Kelly dunk, an Austin Loop triple and a Taylor layup for a 10-7 edge. Taylor finished with 14 points and six points in only 27 minutes of action after running into late foul trouble.
Quavius Copeland grabbed the first of his career-high16 points to put MTSU back in front, 10-9, with 12:17 left in the half. Both teams traded the lead over the next few minutes until a Kelly triple gave Marshall the lead for good, 17-13, with 10:14 left in the half.
Marshall extended its lead to double-digits after an Elmore to Browning ally-oop electrified the 5,427 fans in attendance while sparking a 10-0 run capped off by a Justin Edmonds trey and a 32-19 Herd edge with 4:49 to go in the half.
"We got a bunch of easy buckets," Elmore said. "We got a couple big lob plays and that really gets the crowd into it, and gets us fired up so I think those lobs kind of triggered the energy and we stayed together as a team, stayed focused, shared the ball, I think we played pretty well overall tonight."
The Raiders closed the gap to nine after a Darnell Harris triple made it 37-28 at the break. Both teams shot 41-percent from the field, but Marshall held MTSU to 16.7-percent (1-of-6) from long range.
Out of the break, Marshall raced out to a 13-point lead on a Browning 3-pointer and ballooned to 19 after a Kelly steal led to another dunk and a 53-34 edge with 16:19 left in the game. Kelly netted 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Herd.
Things started to look bleak for the Raiders after a tie up between Kelly and Aldonis Foote led to a technical foul on MTSU, allowing Marshall to push the lead back to 18 points with 13:38 to go. Rather than folding, Middle responded with a 7-0 run with five points coming from Potts to pull to within 11 with 11:39 left. Struggling with foul issues the entire contest, Potts final succumbed to his fifth and final foul with just over four minutes to go.
"You know all week they have been prepping me for him [Potts] and I came out and I took it personal," Browning said. "I just had it in my mind to try and limit him as I can, I felt I did a pretty good job out there."
Back-to-back Browning triples stopped the Raiders surge while starting another Herd run, a 12-2 push to make it a 73-49 Marshall advantage with 7:52 remaining. MTSU would get no closer than 15 the rest of the game.
"We have a lot of guys that can score the ball and it showed tonight with four players in double-figures," D'Antoni said. "I thought we could have shot the ball better but overall it was a solid offensive performance."
MTSU outrebounded Marshall 43-40 while earning 23 second-chance points in the losing effort. Perrin Buford added 14 points and 9 rebounds and Reggie Upshaw had six points and 11 rebounds in the loss.
Marshall finished with 19 assists on 28 made baskets in the win while forcing 14 MTSU turnovers.
"We knew it was going to be a team effort coming into it," Taylor said. "We knew their bigs can kind of space the floor and Giddy Potts he a good shooter, and we just had to stay locked in all 40 minutes. The biggest stat line that stood out to me was they had 14 turnovers and three assists, so I think we just played well defensively. We came locked in tonight, we have to take pride, with me in Loop being on the team last year and taking that defeat down in Middle Tennessee, it was embarrassing so we had to come back up here and we knew we had our home crowd with us and we played strong and we played for forty minutes."
With the win, Marshall tied its overall number of wins (11) and wins in conference (7) from last season while earning its best eight-game start to conference play since opening 7-1 during the 1996-97 Southern Conference season under head coach Greg White.
Marshall welcomes UAB to Huntington this Saturday for an outright battle for the conference lead after the Blazers suffered their first loss in conference, falling to WKU 69-62 to snap its school-record 14-game winning streak. Tipoff is scheduled for Noon.