If Ryan Taylor's first half performance was Clark Kent, his second half was Superman. Taylor hit the game-winning layup with four seconds remaining to give Marshall an 87-85 win over UTEP in the Conference USA quarterfinals at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama.
Taylor finished with a double-double, scoring 21 points while grabbing 14 rebounds. He also delivered a block on UTEP's final shot of the game to set up Marshall's chance to steal away the win.
The game saw three ties in the final two minutes of play, with Marshall's C.J. Burks sinking his only free throws of the night to square the event at 85-85 with 38 seconds remaining. UTEP (19-14) tried to use as much time off the clock as possible, but Omega Harris' layup attempt was sent away by Taylor, giving Marshall (17-15) a shot at the win. With the game on the line, Taylor drove to the basket and finished with the layup to send Marshall to the CUSA semifinals tomorrow night against Middle Tennessee State.
James Kelly drilled a 26-footer for the first points of the game and a 3-0 Marshall lead. Earvin Morris answered with a triple of his own to square the affair at 3-3. Both teams seesawed for the lead with the team fouls increasing faster than the actual score. UTEP's Morris picked up his second foul with 17:50 left in the half and Marshall's Kelly followed one minute later.
UTEP took full advantage of Kelly's absence for a 10-6 lead. Thompson entered in relief for Kelly and made his presence known by scoring his first points of the night to trim the deficit to two. Dominic Artis made it 14-8 with 15:00 remaining, but a Thompson trey evened the score at 18-18.
Artis finished with 18 points, five rebounds and five assists in the losing effort.
Hooper Vint pushed the Miners' lead back to four with 7:33 to go in the half, but a Stevie Browning triple gave Marshall its first lead since early in the first half, 32-31. Winn tied the game at 36-36 and the Miners closed the half on a 7-2 run over the final 3:57 of the half for a 42-38 lead at the break.
Thompson led all scorers at the half with 11 points but the Miners dominated the Herd in the paint, scoring 24 to Marshall's 10. UTEP shot 51.5 percent (17-33) from the field in the half while holding Marshall to 37.1 percent (13-35) including 30.4 percent (7-23) from long range.
Back-to-back Terry Winn buckets to open the second half gave UTEP its largest lead of the night, 46-39, but Marshall refused to go away. Triples by Marshall's Austin Loop, Jon Elmore and Kelly trimmed the lead to only two, 50-48, with 16:31 remaining, setting up an old-fashioned shootout.
Loop turned in 18 points, all from long range, shooting 6-13 on the night. Elmore added 12.
UTEP pushed the lead back to seven on a layup by Lee Moore, but a 7-0 run by Marshall capped by a Kelly dunk and an Elmore three tied the game at 55-55 with 14:28 to go.
Kelly finished with a double-double, netting 13 points and grabbing 11 rebounds after spending much of the first half on the bench in foul trouble. Moore had 14 points for UTEP.
Neither team would get more than a three-point lead over the other until a Kelly tip-in with 6:52 to go made it 74-70 Herd. Winn led the Miners comeback effort, tying the game at 78-78 on a pair of free throws with 4:10 left and Harris gave the Miners an 83-81 edge with 95 seconds to go, but the Herd would not falter in the winning effort.
UTEP torched Marshall in the paint, 50-32, but often traded twos for the Herd's threes as Marshall hit more triples (13) than the UTEP attempted (10).
Morris led the way for the Miners with 21 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out of the contest after picking up a technical foul late in the second half.
With the win, Marshall will face No. 2 Middle Tennessee State tomorrow evening with the winner advancing to the CUSA Championship against the winner of Western Kentucky or Old Dominion. The winner of the championship game gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.