MARSHALL - Struggling to find their offense, the Marshall Tigers found themselves playing from behind through much of Tuesday night's game against Mankato East. Marshall rallied to take a late lead, but a baseline jumper by Cougar forward Brandon Kowalski put Mankato East up a point with 10 seconds left.
Coming out of a timeout with 8.8 seconds on the clock, Marshall still had a final shot to capture the win, and everyone in the R/A Facility at Southwest Minnesota State knew who was going to take it.
Marshall senior guard Caleb Johnson took the inbounds pass up the right sideline and drove all the way to the basket, converting on a layup in traffic with just two seconds remaining to give the Tigers a 56-55 victory on Day 1 of the Marshall Fastbreak Club Holiday Tournament.
In the Marshall Fastbreak Club Holiday Tournament, the Tigers beat Mankato East 56-55
Johnson, who scored a game-high 19 points to go with eight rebounds and five assists, said head coach Tom Critchley asked him to take the ball and make a play.
"He just said, 'We're just going to give you the ball, and go.' They got me the ball, and I went," Johnson said.
There were times in the game when it seemed the Tigers might not give themselves a shot at the win.
Photo by Matt Dahlseid
Marshall senior guard Caleb Johnson, right, drives past Mankato East’s Brody Ziegler during the first half of Tuesday’s game at the R/A Facility at Southwest Minnesota State University. For more photos, go to cu.marshallindependent.com.
A lengthy Cougars frontcourt, which consisted of three starters 6-foot-3 or taller, provided a solid anchor for the team's zone defense, a scheme Johnson said the Tigers hadn't seen much yet this season.
Marshall's pressure defense caused some turnovers early in the game, but the Tigers turned the ball over themselves on several occasions and weren't able to get into a flow offensively. Tied at 19 midway through the first half, Mankato East went on an 8-0 run to create a cushion and went into the half up 29-23.
Critchley felt his team had to get back to pushing the pace to get back into the game.
|Mankato East (55)|
|Brandon Adema 3 0-0 6, Taylor Hayenga 1 0-0 2, Brandon Kowalski 5 2-2 12, Brett Olson 2 0-0 6, Mahad Mohamed 0 3-5 3, Brandon Sedivy 3 2-5 8, Martin Stevens-Frederick 3 3-3 10 Brody Ziegler 3 2-2 8 Totals 20 12-17 55. Three-pointers 3 (Olson 2) Rebounds 32 (Ziegler 13) Assists 19 (Mohamad 7, Ziegler 6) Steals 8 Blocks 5 (Ziegler 3) Turnovers 16 Total Fouls 21.|
|Lee Christianson 1 0-0 3, Chad DeAustin 0 1-2 1, Tyus DeBoer 2 3-4 7, Collin Hoover 2 6-8 10, Caleb Johnson 9 0-1 19, Ben Sanders 3 2-5 9, Austin Saugstad 0 1-2 1, Mason Schnaible 3 0-4 6 Totals 20 13-26 56. Three-pointers 3 Rebounds 33 (Hoover 8, Johnson 8) Assists 18 (Johnson 5, Hoover 5) Steals 8 (Sanders 2) Blocks 4 (Hoover 3) Turnovers 19 Total Fouls 19.|
|Halftime Score: Mankato East 29, Marshall 23.|
"I thought we quit being aggressive," he said. "For us to be successful, we've got to get out and run and have our point guard push the ball and put the pressure on the other team. I thought we were tentative offensively and defensively and we played to Mankato East's tempo."
The Cougars extended the lead to 41-31 after Kowalski, who scored a team-high 12 points, hit a shot from his sweet spot along the baseline.
With the game slipping away, Marshall reserve big man Tyus DeBoer scored on a layup and Johnson followed with a three at the top of the key to cut the lead to five.
DeBoer, a freshman, scored six of his seven points in the second half to provide a spark for the Tigers when they needed one.
"Tyus played very well. It was good to see him play with some confidence," Critchley said. "He's a big kid, and it was good to see him get some confidence in himself because all of the players are very confident in him and they're going to get him the ball down there and they expect him to go to the basket."
With 5:30 remaining, Tiger guard Ben Sanders, who was playing with four fouls, hit a triple off of an inbounds play to tie the game at 47, then converted on a layup on the next possession to give his team the lead. A pair of free throws by forward Collin Hoover and another free throw by Austin Saugstad put Marshall up five with just over three minutes remaining.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Mankato East's Brett Olson and Martin Stevens-Frederick put the Cougars up 53-52 with 1:34 left.
DeBoer scored on a layup for the Tigers on their next possession, followed by Kowalski's baseline jumper and Johnson's game-winning layup.
Critchley was proud of his players for gutting out a win despite not having their best game.
"We did a good job of keeping the game close," Critchley said. "They had a chance to really put us away a couple of times and we would answer with a big play when we had to. I think that gave us the confidence that we were sticking around, knowing we weren't playing very well on the offensive end."
Battling with Mankato East's bigs, Hoover put together a solid all-around game, scoring 10 points with eight boards, five assists and three blocks. Sanders added nine points and three assists.
Brody Ziegler helped out the Cougars with eight points, 13 boards and three blocked shots.
Marshall (4-1) will take on Hutchinson at 7:30 p.m. today in the second day of play in the four-team tournament. Hutchinson defeated Minneapolis Washburn 80-75 Tuesday. Mankato East (2-4) will take on Minneapolis Washburn today at 6 p.m.