Marshall ends 31-year NCAA tournament dought

The Marshall Thundering Herd won the Conference USA basketball title Saturday night in Frisco, holding off Western Kentucky 67-66 in Frisco.

With the victory, the Herd qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1987.

Point guard Jon Elmore scored 27 points for the fourth-seeeded Herd (24-10).

Coach Dan D’Antoni’s team played well in the tournament, defeating the No. 5 UTSA Roadrunners, the No. 9 Southern Miss Golden Eagles and the No. 3 Hilltoppers on consecutive days at the Ford Center, in the Star.

Earlier this season, forecasters were projecting that both Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky would make the NCAA tournament out of the C-USA.

But both might now be looking at accepting bids from the less-prestigious NIT.

No. 1 Middle Tennessee (24-7) lost in the quarterfinals, and Western Kentucky (24-10) fell in the championship game despite scoring the last 11 points of the game.

Trailing by the eventual final score, the Hilltoppers missed two shots in the final 30 seconds.

Saturday’s scores

(Tournament finals)

Pac-12 — Arizona 75, USC 61

Western Athletic Conference — New Mexico State 72, Grand Canyon 58

Atlantic Coast Conference — Virginia 71, North Carolina 63

Southland Conference — Stephen F. Austin 59, Southeastern Louisiana 55

Conference USA — Marshall 67, Western Kentucky 66

Big Sky — Montana 82, Eastern Washington 65

Big East — Villanova 76, Providence 66, OT

Big 12 — Kansas 81, West Virginia 70

Mountain West — San Diego State 82, New Mexico 75

MAC — Buffalo 76, Toledo 66

America East – Maryland-Baltimore County 65, Vermont 62

MEAC — North Carolina Central 71,, Hampton 63

SWAC — Texas Southern 84, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 69

(Virginia is expected to be a No. 1 regional seed in the NCAA tournament, possibly the first overall).

Conference / NCAA automatic qualifier

Ohio Valley — Murray State (26-5)

Missouri Valley – Loyola-Chicago (28-5)

Big Ten — Michigan (28-7)

Big South — Radford (22-12)

Atlantic Sun — Lipscomb (23-9)

Southern — UNC Greensboro (27-7)

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference — Iona (20-13)

West Coast Conference — Gonzaga (30-4)

Horizon — Wright State (25-9)

Northeast — LIU Brooklyn (18-16)

Colonial Athletic Association — Charleston (26-7)

Summit — South Dakota State (28-6)

Patriot League — Bucknell (25-9)

America East — Maryland-Baltimore County (24-10)

MEAC — North Carolina Central (19-15)

SWAC — Texas Southern (15-19)

Big 12 — Kansas (27-7)

Mountain West — San Diego State (22-10)

Big East — Villanova (30-4)

MAC — Buffalo (26-8)

Conference USA — Marshall (24-10)

Southland — Stephen F. Austin (28-6)

Atlantic Coast — Virginia (31-2)

Big Sky — Montana (26-7)

Western Athletic Conference — New Mexico State (28-5)

Pac-12 — Arizona (27-7)

Marshall advances with 95-81 victory over UTSA

Playing from behind all night, the UTSA Roadrunners rallied furiously to pull within five points of the Marshall Thundering Herd in the closing minutes of the second half.

From there, the Roadrunners twice had chances to hit shots and make it a one-possession game.

But fourth-seeded Marshall held No. 5 UTSA scoreless on both tries, turning the stops into a 95-81 victory in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA men’s basketball tournament.

The tournament is being played in Frisco, in the Ford Center at the Star.

With the victory, Marshall (22-10) moves on to play ninth-seeded Southern Miss in a semifinal game set for 12:30 p.m. Friday.

Southern Miss (16-17) made the semis by shocking the top-seeded Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, 71-68, in overtime.

For UTSA (19-14), its dream of a berth in the NCAA tournament has been dashed.

But an opportunity looms to play in another postseason event, perhaps the National Invitation Tournament, the College Basketball Invitational or the tournament.

Regardless, none of that was consolation to the Roadrunners, who put together their best season in six years, won the tournament opener Wednesday night against UTEP but then failed to sustain the momentum.

“Our guys are pretty disappointed in there, and I think that’s a good sign,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio broadcast. “They really believed we could come here and win a bunch of games and give ourselves a chance.

“I wouldn’t want it any other way. You know, we wouldn’t want guys to be in there content or coming over to this tournament not thinking we’re going to win it.

“So, they’re a little disappointed right now. Their heads are down.”

Henson told KTKR radio that “we’re kind of planning on playing in (another) tournament” early next week.

“So, we’ll have to bounce back real quickly,” he said. “You got to put this one behind you. The dream of the Big Dance (the NCAA tournament) is behind us now. We’ll go play some more good basketball.”

Guard C.J. Burks led Marshall with 29 points, hitting 9 of 16 from the field. Forward Ajdin Penava added 22 points.

On the glass, Penava dominated with 12 boards and Burks pulled down nine. Point guard Jon Elmore ran the show with 15 points and 11 assists.

“They’re a good team,” Henson said. “They just spread the floor so well. They made good plays.”

Getting off to a fast start, the Thundering Herd raced to an 18-point lead in the first half.

UTSA cut it to 11 at the intermission. But Marshall stepped on the gas again, building a 15-point margin seven minutes into the second half.

At that juncture, the Roadrunners started to play their best ball of the night. They rallied to within 74-69 when Giovanni De Nicolao hit a jumper.

But that was as close as it would get.

UTSA made a couple of stops, only to come up empty offensively when Deon Lyle missed a three, followed by De Nicolao having his runner blocked by Jannson Williams.

Williams followed his block with a free throw, and then a three-point shot, boosting Marshall into a nine-point lead. UTSA never got closer than six the rest of the way.

Playing without injured Jhivvan Jackson, the Roadrunners probably didn’t have enough weapons to win the tournament.

But forward Byron Frohnen had his second double-double in two nights with 16 points and 13 rebounds.

Forward Nick Allen and guard George Willborn III also scored 16, with freshman Keaton Wallace coming off the bench for 13.

Lyle was held to 2-of-15 shooting and five points.