Jan. 15, 2012
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (SMU) - Akil Simpson scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, leading SMU to a thrilling 55-53 victory over Marshall on the road Sunday. For Simpson, it was her second-straight double-double as the sophomore lifted SMU (9-8, 2-2 Conference USA) over the Thundering Herd (12-4, 3-1 C-USA), a team previously unbeaten in conference play.
The game came down to the final seconds, with SMU inbounding the ball with 1.7 seconds left on the clock with a two-point lead after Marshall missed both a layup and a 3-point attempt in the final 47 seconds. The Mustangs forced a turnover with 22 seconds left, and Samantha Mahnesmith was fouled with less than two to play, all but giving SMU the win with a successful inbounds pass. Simpson caught the pass and Marshall was unable to foul before the buzzer.
"I've got to hand it to our kids. They played their hearts out today," head coach Rhonda Rompola said with a smile after the game. "We got lucky on a couple plays at the end. I've got to give them credit. I'm so proud of them right now."
Simpson was 7-of-10 from the field to lead the Mustangs, and went 6-of-7 from the free throw line. Alisha Filmore and Raven Short each scored nine points, and Mahnesmith had five points and five rebounds. Short scored all nine points on 3-point shots, going 3-of-5 from behind the arc.
The Mustangs and Thundering Herd were knotted up for most of the first half, but Marshall hit a pair of 3-pointers late to stretch the lead to eight with 3:02 left before the break. After a Marshall bucket with 21 seconds to go, Royce Chadwick called timeout for the Thundering Herd, and Rhonda Rompola took advantage. Out of the timeout, Krystal Johnson dribbled to the free throw line and passed to Destynee Hives-McCray, who laid it in as the buzzer sounded to cut the lead to four, 30-26 at halftime.
The Thundering Herd had 13 first-half field goals with a pair of 3-pointers, while SMU hit 11 field goals, but were just 1-of-5 from beyond the arc. Marshall was winning the battle off the boards 14-13, but SMU has six offensive rebounds, translating to nine second chance points. Filmore, who is averaging nearly 15 points in conference games, led SMU with nine points in the first 20 minutes, and Akil Simpson had seven at the break.
SMU finished the game shooting 41.2-percent, going 1-of-22 in the second half, while Marshall shot 25.8-percent in the second half to finish with a 39.6 shooting percentage. Over the first 12 minutes of the second half, SMU held Marshall to just three field goals in 17 attempts.
The Mustangs return home to host East Carolina on Sunday. Tip-off is scheduled for 12 p.m., a change from the originally scheduled 2 p.m. start.