RADFORD, Va. – Anyone who has ever watched Jermaine Marrow play for Hampton throughout his career knows there are days where he seems incapable of being stopped. He was, after all, the leading scorer in the Big South this season, and was routinely among the nation’s top scorers.
Coming off a 32-point performance in the quarterfinals – and facing off with Big South Player of the Year Carlik Jones – the senior turned in an even more impressive encore.
Marrow became the first Big South player to ever notch a double-double with 30 points or greater and 10 assists or greater, scoring 36 points and dishing 10 dimes in an 86-78, upset victory over top-seeded Radford Friday night.
“I don’t care who they call the best team. When you’re in situations like this, it’s the best team for that 40 minutes,” said Hampton coach Buck Joyner. “We felt that we could come in here, and if we could defend and rebound, we’d have a shot to win this ballgame – and (if we could) let our best players be our best players – and all of that happened tonight. I’m so proud of them.”
Radford (21-11) controlled much of the early action, breaking out to as much as a seven-point lead following a Jones dunk on a break midway through the first stanza. As quickly as the Highlanders jumped out, however, the Pirates countered and seized control.
Hampton (15-18) peeled out on a 9-2 run, punctuated by a Ben Stanley bucket that led to a Highlander stoppage. Once the teams returned to the court out of the time out, it was time for Marrow to take over.
The Newport News, Virginia, native splashed home four triples over a five-minute stretch, with each one seemingly from further away from the basket than the last. The thumb injury that sidelined Marrow for much of the year seemingly behind him, his confidence burned brighter with each made shot.
“I’m just now getting my thumb back so I feel like I’m 100 percent,” Marrow said. “It’s just hard work in the gym, getting more shots up, and they’re falling right now in the tournament.”
The Pirates took a 39-34 advantage to the interval, with Marrow and Stanley accounting for 36 of those points. Each made 7-of-10 tries from the field.
Hampton delivered what appeared to be the knockout blow early in the second half, using an 8-0 run to take a 49-39 lead. The run compelled another stoppage and fulfilled a conversation the Pirates had during the halftime break.
“In halftime, the first thing we said was that we needed a kill. A kill for us is three (defensive) stops. We got those stops,” Marrow said. “We knew that if we went up, that they would low-key crumble a little bit, and they did. We went up maybe 15, 17 at that point, and we got the (win).”
The win came, but not without some stress for the blue-clad faithful. Once Hampton opened up a 19-point lead, Radford roared back on a 14-2 run, fueled by added defensive pressure. The Pirates aided the cause by missing six straight free throws, a fact that was not lost on Stanley.
“We’ve battled bad free throw shooting the whole season. We’ve just gotta get better at that,” Stanley commented. “Knocking down free throws would have iced the game. There would have been no hope of them getting back. We’re gonna get in the gym when we head to Rock Hill, and just knock it down, because that could have hurt us at the end.”
And of Marrow’s battle with Jones?
“I took (not being named Player of the Year) personally. I respect Carlik. I respect him to the highest. We talk daily. He’s like a brother,” Marrow said. “They were in first place, so I respect that, but I’m in the championship. I’d rather be in the championship than be Player of the Year.”
Radford’s season will continue, as it earned the league’s automatic bid to the National Invitational Tournament by winning the regular-season crown. The result was not what coach Mike Jones and his team wanted, but Jones glowingly spoke of his club after the game.
“I’ll rock with these guys any day. I love these guys. I love their effort,” Jones said. “We played for 40 minutes. I think we were down 19, and we cut it to seven with the ball, with a chance to cut it to five or four. These guys never quit until there were zeroes on the clock, and that’s what we preach every day. I’m proud of them for their efforts.
“The great thing about it is that we have a chance to play in a prestigious tournament still. We have a championship under our belt. We made it to the semis and had a chance to play to go to the championship game. Life’s like that, man. You don’t win them all. I’m proud of our guys for sticking to things throughout the year and still coming out champions.”
Marrow’s 36 points set a record for the largest point total in a Big South tournament semifinal contest. Stanley added 26, along with seven rebounds. Davion Warren also grabbed seven caroms to go with his 12 points on the game.
Carlik Jones paced the Highlanders with 33 points on 9-for-19 from the deck and 13-for-14 from the stripe. Travis Fields added 22.
Fifth-seeded Hampton advances to the Big South championship game with second-seeded Winthrop at the Winthrop Coliseum in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Sunday afternoon. The game is slated for a 1:00 (Eastern) tip and will air live over ESPN.