HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall fans saw the end of an era on Thursday night as the historic senior class of Jon Elmore, Rondale Watson, C.J. Burks and Christian Thieneman brought home one more trophy as the 2019 CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament Champions by defeating Green Bay, 90-70.
“I’m proud of those kids,” fifth-year head coach Dan D’Antoni said after the championship victory. “It was a good way for this group to go out. They set a lot of firsts in Marshall history. Four seniors, three West Virginians and a Kentuckian, I’m proud of them. I told them I was happy for the win, but I was happier for every day of practice and every day I got travel and just be around them.”
The CIT postseason title is just the second postseason championship in program history and the first since 1947. The Herd closed out the season winning 10 of its last 11 games.
The Herd struggled through the majority of the first half as it trailed by 13 points, 37-24, after Green Bay’s leading scorer, Sandy Cohen III, hit a three. However, Marshall slowly chipped away at the deficit with the championship game’s MVP C.J. Burks leading Marshall on a 7-0 run in the final two minutes of the half to trail by just two, 42-40, at the break.
Marshall grabbed a small lead in the beginning of the second half, but saw the Phoenix quickly regain the advantage and led by as many as seven in the final stanza. But a tip-in by Taevion Kinsey with 11:47 put Marshall ahead, 60-59, and the Herd took it the rest of the way from there.
The Herd outscored the Phoenix 30-11 in the final 11 minutes of the game to capture the title.
Burks was a man on a mission scoring 28 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out six assists in his final game in a Herd uniform.
“It means a lot. All the obstacles we’ve been through in our time here,” Burks commented on winning the championship. “We went through many ups and downs. Our fans and coaching staff remained with us. They know what kind of team we can be, but it takes a different kind of mentality to get there. What we’ve done has been unbelievably special.”
Elmore added 17 points, six boards and three helpers in from of the 5,748 screaming fans who packed the Cam Henderson Center on Thursday night as he was named to the 2019 CIT Tournament Team.
“It (The win) means a lot,” Elmore said. “The work we put in. The way the program shifted from where it was to where it is now. You saw how many people were out there watching and supporting us. We’ve been very fortunate to have a coach who believed in us from day one. This senior class was highly under-recruited. Coach D’Antoni took a chance on us, handed us the keys and let us go to work.”
And Kinsey gave Herd fans another glimpse into the future as he has all season with 21 points and 11 rebounds, eight in the second half, for the freshman’s first double-double in his young career. Kinsey was also named to the all-tournament team.
“I’ve tried to take a piece of something from all of them,” Kinsey said about the departing senior class. “These guys helped me with all the little things in practice. They’d pull me to the side and say ‘you could have done this better.’ But the most important thing I took from them is how they handle their selves off the court. I look up to them a lot in that aspect.”
Cohen, who came into the contest averaging 17.3 points per game, was held to 13 points by the combination of Jarrod West and Kinsey, including finishing the final 26 minutes change with a point.
Marshall’s three made three-point buckets were a season-low, but the Herd still managed 90 points in part to 58 points in the paint.
– D’Antoni recorded the 96th win of his career.
– Elmore finished his time at Marshall with 133 games played and started, falling one game short of Shaquille Johnson’s record of 134 games played.
– Marshall grabbed 52 rebounds in the contest. It was the second-time this season Marshall had 50 or more rebounds in a game this season and the first time since the season opener at Eastern Kentucky when the team had 53.
– Rondale Watson concluded his career with Herd with eight points and eight rebounds.
– Burks collected 20 or more points for the 38th time in his career.
– Elmore reached double-figure scoring in all but 10 games of his 133-game Marshall career.
– The Herd scored 90 or more points for the 11th game this season.
– Marshall’s 58 points in the paint are a season-high.
– The Herd grabbed 16 offensive boards and scored a season-high 24 second-chance points.
– Marshall had five players with six more rebounds with Jannson Williams joining Kinsey, Watson, Burks and Elmore as he brought down seven off the glass.
– The Herd is now 2-0 in program history when playing in the month of April.