HUNTINGTON, W.V. – Nigel Hawkins (22 points), Efe Odigie (22 points), Jordan Lathon (15 points) and Kaosi Ezeagu (four points) combined for a UTEP freshman record 63 points, but Marshall senior Jon Elmore scored a career-high 44 points as the Thundering Herd (13-9, 6-3 Conference USA) pulled away from UTEP (7-13, 2-7 C-USA), 91-86, on Thursday night in the Henderson Center.
“Our young guys performed hard and went up against some experience; experienced perimeter players for that matter,” first-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “We’ve played three straight games when they’ve had seniors on the floor and tonight we let one that’s really, really good [Jon Elmore] – and will have his jersey hanging in the rafters – got off to a great start. He’s a really good player and played great tonight.”
Elmore scored 26 of his 44 during the second half. He went 4-for-6 from beyond the arc and 8-of-9 from the free-throw line during the second period.
Odigie added his ninth double-double on a career-high 20 rebounds. Odigie and Hawkins each led the Miners in points (22), while Hawkins set a career-high with four steals and pulled down eight rebounds.
After being tied at 37-37 at halftime, Marshall took a 12-point lead (58-46), its biggest of the game, after Rondale Watson connected on a pair of free throws at the 14:25 mark.
The Miners would fight back as they have all season. The lead would be chipped away as UTEP got back to within five points (58-53) when Lathon made a layup. After another pair of seven-point deficits, the Miners climbed back to take a 65-64 lead after a pair of made Evan Gilyard free throws at the 8:57 mark.
After the Thundering Herb built an 85-78 lead with 3:47 remaining in the contest, UTEP got within three points two times down the stretch. Paul Thomas converted a layup, making the score 85-82 with 1:59 remaining in the game, while Odigie made layup with five seconds left to get within a trio of points again (89-86). But Elmore and C.J. Burks hit key free throws to seal the victory.
Thomas shot the ball well, scoring 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting, including going 3-for-4 from downtown. Ezeagu added three rebounds and two blocked shots.
During the first half, The Miners largest lead was a 31-23 score when Ezeagu converted a layup at the 3:43 mark. Marshall and UTEP would trade buckets during the next few minutes. The Thundering Herd made a pair of baskets to make the score 31-27, but a Hawkins three-pointer made it a seven-point lead (34-27). Jarrod West answered Hawkins’s three with one of his own, but Thomas answered his with second of the half to make the count 37-30.
However, Marshall would end the half on a 7-0 run to tie the score (37-37), heading into the locker room. Lathon finished with four rebounds and a blocked shot, while going 4-for-4 from the charity stripe.
Overall, the Miners shot the best from the free-throw all season, going 16-for-17 (94.1 percent). Marshall shot 85.7 percent (18-21) from the free-throw line.
Burks added 18 points, while Jannson Williams chipped in with 11 points.
Up next, UTEP will continue its road trip with a contest at WKU on Saturday, Feb. 2. The Miners and Hilltoppers will tipoff at 5:30 p.m. MT/6:30 CT in Bowling Green, Ky.