Published February 16, 2013
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall couldn't afford to have multiple droughts against No. 22 Memphis.
The Thundering Herd fell behind by 17 at halftime and couldn't muster enough offense after that, losing to the Tigers 71-59 on Saturday night.
Marshall went six minutes between baskets that allowed Memphis to jump ahead for good midway through the first half. And when Marshall seemed poised to make an improbable comeback, the Thundering Herd couldn't score a basket during a pair of four-minute stretches after halftime.
And having 20 turnovers didn't help as Marshall (11-15, 4-7 Conference USA) lost for the sixth time in eight games.
At least Marshall coach Tom Herrion was happy with his team's effort to cut the big deficit to 5 midway through the second half before the Thundering Herd ran out of gas.
"We're playing pretty well defensively and making some shots and that helped us chip away, chip away," Herrion said. "But it was too big a difference to make up against a great team and we hurt ourselves with some breakdowns."
Adonis Thomas scored a career-high 23 points and matched a career best with 10 rebounds as Memphis won its 16th straight game.
"I shot the ball really well in warmups," Thomas said. "I always try to get to the game early, and my shot was falling and I felt good. I want to keep it up for the rest of the season."
The Tigers (22-3, 11-0 Conference USA) haven't lost since an 87-78 setback at home to No. 12 Louisville on Dec. 15 and maintain a two-game lead over Southern Miss in the standings with six games left until the conference tournament.
"We've got a streak going and we want to keep it alive," Thomas said. "Everybody's excited. We need to keep playing with the same amount of intensity, the same amount of heart and stay out there focused. Everybody's doing a great job and contributing."
Joe Jackson added 12 points and Geron Johnson had 11 for the Tigers, who improved to 7-0 in road games with the help of their reserves. The Memphis bench outscored their Marshall counterparts 19-6.
Elijah Pittman and DeAndre Kane scored 16 points apiece while Dennis Tinnon added 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Thundering Herd.
Thomas entered the game averaging four rebounds but got some nudging from his coach.
"I challenged Adonis and told him that he needed to come up with 10 rebounds today and he was a monster in both halves," said Memphis coach Josh Pastner. "He played at an extremely high level tonight and he continues to get better."
Thomas, whose previous career best for points was 19 — reached on three occasions — had 15 in the opening half but fell silent after halftime along with his teammates. Memphis jumped ahead 43-26 at halftime, then made just one field goal over the first eight minutes of the second half.
Despite its own scoring struggles, Marshall crept closer behind a burst of baskets from Tinnon and Pittman. Pittman's free throw brought the Thundering Herd within 46-41 with 10:44 remaining.
"We kind of broke down and gave them some second-chance points," Thomas said. "We were horrible in transition defense in the second half and that allowed them to get some transition buckets, some offensive rebounds and putbacks."
Then Memphis finally emerged from its slumber. Johnson scored off a rebound then made a 3-pointer to finish a 10-2 run for a 56-43 lead with 8:21 left.
Marshall, playing a ranked opponent at home for the first time in three seasons, got no closer than eight the rest of the game.
Earlier this season, the Tigers held off Marshall 73-72 in Memphis, but the Thundering Herd struggled on offense this time.
Marshall led by as many as seven early on then went scoreless over a stretch of six minutes. Thomas hit a pair of 3-pointers during an 11-0 run as Memphis surged ahead 27-15.
"We came out of the gates and made a few shots," Herrion said. "It was a little bit of fool's gold, I guess. We didn't get enough stops and went through a major drought."