DALLAS – It was a cold night in Dallas with temperatures in the teens when the Marshall Thundering Herd visited Southern Methodist Thursday night for a Conference USA matchup. SMU defeated Marshall 62-46 in a game that started off slow in a frigid Moody Coliseum. But SMU junior guard Samantha Mahnesmith was hot from the floor, shooting a perfect 6-for-6, including 4-for-4 from 3-point range.
Mahnesmith indicated post-game she had no inkling that she would shoot so well.
“I guess I’m kind of surprised. I wasn’t really expecting that,” she said. “I just kind of took it one shot by one shot.”
Throughout the season the guard has averaged 10.5 points per game but in the last two contests, she didn’t break into double digits.
“It’s been a while since she’s really hit some shots,” said SMU head coach Rhonda Rompola. “She hasn’t been on fire. So it was good to see her have a good game. I think she needed that.”
According to Mahnesmith, Marshall lost her during the game.
“They lost track of me,” she said. “Other teams, they stick to me like glue and this team, they didn’t. So I was able to get wide open shots.”
Marshall (6-17, 2-8) came into the game after stunning Southern Mississippi last Sunday afternoon and earning a 57-48 victory. They were next to last in the league with one other C-USA victory, a win at home against UTEP on January 9.
SMU (12-11, 5-5) on the other hand had dropped to sixth place after a defeat in Houston against Rice.
Rompola made sure to prepare her team for neutralizing Marshall Center, especially in light of the Thundering Herd’s win over Southern Miss and the unpredictability of play in C-USA. SMU lost to Southern Miss on the road on January 27.
“This is a very unpredictable conference,” said Rompola. “There’s just really no telling. Marshall had a really good win against Southern Miss. Something we didn’t do. In fact we really played very poorly at Southern Miss.”
A key factor in the win over Marshall was stopping 6-1 forward Tynikki Crook, her team’s scoring leader.
“I thought we did a good job on Tynikki Crook their post player who’s averaging about 17 points a game. We made her earn every bucket, earn every free throw,” she said. “Marshall we knew was going to go into their post player and our game plan was to double her every time she touched the basketball and make her give it up, make somebody else shoot and make them shoot it from the outside.”
Crook, the league’s second-leading scorer, finished with 12 points for Marshall, scoring eight in the second half. She moved into fourth place on Marshall’s career list in points scored with 1,368 and grabbed seven boards to tie for fifth place in rebounds, surpassing Tammy Wiggins (1983-87) in both categories.
Both teams came out the gate cold in the first half and after three turnovers and a couple of substitutions, SMU finally made the first basket of the game. Marshall managed to trot out to a early five-point lead six minutes into the game but several three-point shots from SMU including two from Mahnesmith put SMU back up 13-10 at 10:41 and they led for the rest of the game. At the break, SMU had a 10-point lead, 29-19. SMU had a 45 percent field goal percentage in the first half compared to 30 percent for Marshall.
In the second half, SMU amplified its shooting prowess to 53.8 percent including 57.1 percent from the three-point line. Several reserve Mustangs were able to get some quality minutes throughout the game, especially in the second half. Raven Short led from the bench with seven points and three rebounds.
“We didn’t play very well, especially in the second half,” said Marshall head coach Royce Chadwick.