HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - If this Marshall basketball team does nothing else this season, it can tell about the biggest home-and-home turnaround against an opponent.
The Thundering Herd, having suffered a horrendous 102-46 loss on Jan. 23 at Southern Mississippi, turned the tables Tuesday night and thwarted the Golden Eagles 88-84 at Cam Henderson Center.
A check of the sometimes-spotty records shows this 60-point turnaround to be the second-largest in school history. The only greater season split with a greater combined margin came in February 1941 against West Virginia Wesleyan, when Marshall turned around a 71-53 loss with an 87-44 rout (61 points total).
The result insulates the Herd from the indignity of a 20-loss season and crushes Southern Miss' paper-thin NCAA tournament at-large chances.
More important, it erased a major bruise of the program's pride, and it served as a perfect Cam Henderson Center sendoff for Robert Goff, Nigel Spikes and Dennis Tinnon.
As it turned out, Goff staked his team to a fast start with eight of the Herd's first 10 points and Spikes helped end it with two go-ahead free throws with 30.3 seconds left.
It was also a night the Herd shot a season-high 55.1 percent from the floor, hit half its 20 3-point attempts and shot an unexpected 77.4 percent from the line, 24 of 31.
And Tamron Manning, whose 10-point outburst helped Marshall take an eight-point lead at the half, tripled his career high with 12 points, dished out four assists and didn't commit a turnover. Elijah Pittman and D.D. Scarver combined for seven 3-pointers in scoring 22 and 19 points, respectively.
Goff hit three mid-range jumpers, Jamir Hanner canned a 3-pointer and Scarver rejected a 3-point try late in the game.
That, and Marshall flustered Southern Miss early with a zone that morphed from a 2-3 to a 1-3-1 and back, before Dwayne Davis solved it with his 35-point outburst.
None of this was thinkable back in January, when Marshall looked up at the scoreboard in Hattiesburg and found itself on the wrong side of 47-7.
"They got the best of us on the road, and there's no better way than getting them back in your own house on senior night," Spikes said. "I told you all we can play. We can play with the best of them, and obviously they can't play with us."
"We got contributions from a lot of guys, and you have to against a club like that," said MU coach Tom Herrion. "I'm proud of kids bouncing back and responding. An opportunity to win on senior night, we don't want to let that opportunity slip away. The margin of defeat in Hattiesburg speaks for itself."
Goff staked the Herd (13-17, 6-9 Conference USA) to a 16-8 lead, but Southern Miss (22-8, 11-4) stormed back to take a 26-22 lead on Jerrod Brooks' reverse layup. Manning answered quickly with a 3-pointer, two free throws and another long bomb to put MU up 29-27.
The Herd had turnover troubles early, finishing the half with nine, but Southern Miss committed six down the first-half stretch. DeAndre Kane turned one into a basket at the other end, setting the 46-38 halftime lead.
That 46 was the same amount the Herd scored in that debacle in Hattiesburg. That happens when you shoot 64 percent.
Marshall surged ahead 52-43 on a Kane steal and dunk, followed by a Pittman free throw. But Southern Miss is not the second-place team in C-USA for nothing, and a run was certain.
Davis cut the lead to 52-51, punctuating an 8-0 run with a layup, but Scarver answered with five quick points sandwiched around a Tinnon steal. Jonathan Mills tied the game at 62 with two free throws, but Pittman buried a 3 immediately.
The game was knotted at 67 and 69, and Southern Miss finally took a 74-73 lead with 3:42 left on one of the better plays of the night - Davis driving the lane, dishing out to the corner at the last moment and tossing the ball to Neil Watson in the corner for a 3.
The Eagles took a 75-74 lead after Pittman's flagrant foul, though it could have been more. Mills missed the first of two foul shots and the Eagles missed twice upon retaining possession.
Pittman's fourth 3 gave the Herd a 79-76 lead, but that was short-lived. With 1:03 left, Davis canned a big-time 3 with a hand in his face to tie it.
As Kane ran the shot clock down, Spikes sneaked open on the baseline and caught a perfect pass. He went for a monstrous dunk but Daveon Boardingham was having none of it. The resulting foul sent Spikes, a 51 percent career free-throw shooter, to the line.
Spikes canned them both for an 81-79 lead with 30.3 seconds left.
After that, Southern Miss misfired at the line, splitting pairs with 16, 9 and 7 seconds left. Scarver hit four in a row and Pittman hit three to settle the score. And that hideous score of weeks ago.
"We competed at a high level," Herrion said. "There were two stretches, one if the first half and one in the second half, where we got careless and sloppy with the ball. Minus that, I thought offensive we were as good as we've been all year."
Southern Miss coach Donnie Tyndall refused to attend the postgame press conference.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsm...@wvgazette.com or at twitter.com/dougsmock.
Marshall 88, Southern Miss 84