Elmore's 27 lead 13th-seeded Marshall over Wichita St 81-75
The Marshall Thundering Herd celebrated like never before.
For the first time in six tries during 62 years, the Thundering Herd won an NCAA Tournament game.
Jon Elmore scored 27 points and Jarrod West hit a huge 3-pointer with three minutes left to help No. 13 seed Marshall topple fourth-seeded Wichita State 81-75 in the East Region.
When the buzzer sounded, West raised his arms in the air and joyously ran practically the length of the court before joining his teammates in celebration.
"Long time!" coach Dan D'Antoni said moments later.
Was it ever.
The Thundering Herd (25-10) made its first NCAA tourney appearance in 1956 and made its most recent one in 1987, losing all five along the way. The 1987 loss was later vacated due to infractions. Its only postseason victories were in the NIT in 1967, when D'Antoni was on the team.
"So we've got a little bit to do," said D'Antoni, the older brother of Houston Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni. "I like these guys. I like the chance riding with them, fun to be on a trip with and they're fun to watch to play and it's real fun when we win. So we're going to try to do that one more time.
"I told them the beginning goal is to win the NCAA Tournament. Wherever we get in the car driving down the road to that championship, when it stops we'll all get off and we'll be happy because we like who is in the car. We like the journey we're on. We're looking forward to the next leg, and I have confidence in these guys that they'll give you a real good ballgame and got a great chance to win."
Marshall joined Buffalo as 13th seeds to win this week. On Thursday night, Buffalo beat No. 4 seed Arizona.
The Thundering Herd also got big shots down the stretch from Ajdin Penava and C.J. Burks and will play the Murray State-West Virginia winner in the next round.
Wichita State (25-8) got 27 points from Conner Frankamp and seemed to be in control midway through the second half, but the Thundering Herd refused to fade despite its lack of NCAA tourney experience.
After Frankamp's long jumper gave the Shockers a 70-69 lead with just less than 5 minutes to go, Penava made a layup. The next time down the floor, West buried a long 3 and raised his right hand in celebration after giving the Thundering Herd a 74-70 lead.
Shaquille Morris responded with a slam dunk for the Shockers before the 6-foot-9 Penava made another layup and Burks had a steal and a layup to give Marshall a six-point lead.
Frankamp hit a 3 with 44.1 seconds left before Marshall benefited from a critical call. With 36.2 seconds left, Zach Brown of Wichita State blocked a shot by Jannson Williams and the ball went out of bounds. After a long video review, the referees awarded the ball to Marshall, and Penava had a slam dunk off an inbounds pass.
Wichita State blew several chances to pull any closer. Landry Shamet missed the front end of a one-and-one with 28.9 seconds and the Shockers then missed two 3-point attempts in the next 12 seconds before turning the ball over.
The 6-foot-3 Elmore held up even though he was guarded by bigger opponents.
"This is another day in the park," he said. "Basketball is what I love to do and whoever that guy is in front of me I'm trying to crush him. Every play I want to play him out, get around him, get him in foul trouble, get the assist. I don't care who you put on me I'm going to attack you 40 minutes, and that's what we did tonight."
Frankamp said Elmore "controlled the pace of the game. He played really well, but we knew that going into the game. He made some tough shots and got some easy looks that we can't give up."
Penava scored16 points, Burks 13 and Williams 10. Morris had 12 for the Shockers and Shamet 11.
Elmore scored nine straight points midway through the second half, including two 3-pointers, to help Marshall keep pace after it allowed the Shockers to go on a 15-1 run spanning halftime.
Frankamp responded with 3s on consecutive possessions for Wichita State
"I like our style. I like our kids. Our kids fit the style real well," D'Antoni said. "They're hustlers. They put their heart on the line, and usually I'm pretty good at quotes. But I'm so excited I'm losing my mind! I don't know, I'm just happy where we are and I'm never at a loss for words. Hell, I'm at a loss for words."
Marshall led for most of the first half, twice taking a seven-point lead, before Wichita State went on an 11-1 run to take a 37-34 halftime lead. The Thundering Herd played for the final shot of the half but Elmore was whistled for a foul with 9.2 seconds left. Willis missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Wichita State outrebounded the Thundering Herd 44-30, with Rashard Kelly grabbing 12. But the Shockers also committed 15 turnovers, which led to 27 points for Marshall.
Marshall advances to face the winner of the Murray State-West Virginia game.