HUNTINGTON — It was contentious, to say the least.
But to say the most?
It was an ugly, physical, knock-down, drag-out foul-fest of a game that was dominated by the three-man officiating crew.
Somehow, Marshall and Florida Atlantic still managed to score 176 points in the Thundering Herd’s 94-82 win over FAU Wednesday night before 5,426 fans in the Cam Henderson Center.
As for the officiating?
Well, I’m not sure if they wore out their whistles, but they definitely wore out their welcome in “The Cam.” There might not have been any liquor in the stands, but the boos were still pouring.
In fact, the game actually started out that way.
With 17:09 remaining in the first half, Marshall’s 6-foot-10, 315-pound Iran Bennett was called for a questionable blocking call on a pick-and-roll. It was questionable enough that Marshall coach Danny D’Antoni argued long and loud with the officials.
Then, just 18 seconds later, an official called a very controversial charge on Bennett drawn by FAU’s 6-11, 240-pound Karlis Silins. Video replay showed it was a horrendously poor call.
This time D’Antoni was absolutely livid although it looked like holiday spirit. Between his green sports jacket and red face, D’Antoni looked downright Christmasy.
He wasn’t in a giving mood at that point, but later D’Antoni did embrace some peace on earth.
“I’m fighting for my team,” said D’Antoni during his postgame press conference. “The officials probably think I’m crazy. But I just want them to get it right.
“If they’d ever smile, they’d probably see me smile back at them.”
But there were more fouls than smiles during this hotly contested game that, at times, had the feel of a heavyweight bout.
“Yeah, it was a heavyweight fight,” said D’Antoni.
The final tally?
Florida Atlantic was whistled for 24 personal fouls and one technical. Marshall was assessed 20 personal fouls. The Owls had three players foul out, including the 6-11 Silins (in 18 minutes of playing time) along with 6-10, 245-pound Aleksandar Zecevic (14 minutes) and guard Cornelius Taylor.
Marshall emerged unscathed with Bennett finishing with a team-high four fouls.
“They were pretty big, but I think we held our own,” said Marshall’s Jannson Williams, 6-8, 215-pound junior, who finished with 13 points and five blocked shots.
“They are definitely a post-up team. We used Dan’s offense tonight very well. It was a big reason why we won the game tonight. At the end of the game, we know what Marshall basketball can be.
“We’re figuring it out.”
If it takes rough and tumble, the Herd banged with Florida Atlantic. But if it takes the finesse of 3-point shooting, Marshall also can handle that.
The Herd connected on 12 of 22 3-point attempts with six different players hitting treys. Marshall outscored FAU 36-24 on 3-pointers.
Yet the officials’ whistles still commanded center stage.
The most egregious call occurred with 13:55 remaining in the second half. MU guard Taevion Kinsey had leaked out for a potential breakaway dunk and was across half-court when a FAU player reached out and grabbed Kinsey by the seat of shorts and dragged him to the court.
The ball rolled out of bounds and was awarded to FAU.
Then, there was FAU coach Dusty May’s technical foul. After MU’s Jarrod West drew a charge on the Owls’ Taylor, May strolled all the way to center court to earn his “T.”
Talk about whistling while you work.