HUNTINGTON — Between committing 19 turnovers and giving up 17 offensive rebounds Thursday night, Marshall suffered a 17-shot deficit against Old Dominion.
That allowed the Monarchs to shoot down the Thundering Herd 84-79 in front of 5,829 at Cam Henderson Center.
With the result, the Herd’s lead for the fourth spot in the Conference USA standings slipped to one game over Texas-San Antonio, which owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over MU. ODU (22-5, 13-2 C-USA) remains in a tie for second with Western Kentucky.
Marshall (19-9, 10-5) shot 54.5 percent on 55 field-goal attempts, but managed only five offensive rebounds and two second-chance points. ODU scored 21 second-chance points, with Brandan Stith pulling down nine of the 17 offensive boards. With that, ODU shot 43.1 percent, but took 72 shots.
Stith finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds and four steals, all team highs. The latter figure pointed to MU’s other problem, those 19 turnovers that led to 22 Monarch points.
“First of all, they’re pretty good defensively. They’re long and they’re athletic,” said MU coach Dan D’Antoni. “But I think we just had misreads, two or three of them careless.”
The Herd had sometimes-spectacular play from Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks, who both scored 24 points and combined to go 18 of 31 from the floor. Elmore added 11 assists for his sixth points-assists double-double of the season.
They did as much as they could to bring the Herd back from a 61-50 deficit. With 4:48 left, Burks’ 17-footer gave MU a 73-72 lead.
After Trey Porter got around Ajdin Penava and dunked, MU retook the lead with two Penava free throws. On the next possession, ODU took the lead on a B.J. Stith baseline drive, and stayed ahead.
Porter hit two free throws and sank a smooth hook shot over Penava, and Brandan Stith’s layup put ODU ahead 82-79. B.J. Stith’s two free throws with 20 seconds left set the final score.
The 6-foot-7, 240-pound Brandan Stith entered the game averaging 6.6 points, but accepted the scoring load against the leaner Herd inside game.
“Brandan was just a warrior out there,” said ODU coach Jeff Jones. “There wasn’t anything pretty about what he did. It was just good old-fashioned, blue-collar hard work. He got garbage points, he ran the floor when we went out in transition and maybe missed the initial shots.
“When you think about how quickly Trey Porter picked up two fouls and sat for the first half, Brandan, he just grinded.”
And Marshall was on the business end of that grinding.
“Their physicality got to us,” Elmore said. “They seemed like they were scoring every time down the stretch, every time we needed a crucial stop. Can’t give up that many second-chance points if we want to win.”
Still, the Herd had chances to keep up or get ahead in the final minute. Burks and Elmore both had attempts go awry, Burks on a layup after a faked 3-pointer and Elmore on an open 3. Porter blocked an Elmore layup on MU’s final possession.
The home fans went home disappointed, as did D’Antoni. But the fourth-year coach gave credit to all involved.
“That was a heck of a ball game, played at a really high level. There were some spectacular plays,” he said. “If you didn’t enjoy this game, you don’t like basketball.”
BRIEFLY: Penava recorded his 13th double-double of the season, scoring 14 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. He also blocked five shots. … Marshall plays its final regular-season home game Saturday, taking on last-place Charlotte at 7 p.m. The 49ers were crushed 93-55 at Western Kentucky. … Marshall was eliminated from the C-USA regular-season title race, as leader Middle Tennesee (14-1) can do no worse than 14-4.