GREENVILLE, N.C. – Senior forward Robert Goff led all scorers with a career-high 27 points, but the Marshall men's basketball team lost 86-79 to East Carolina Saturday night in front of 5,377 at Minges Coliseum.
It was the regular season finale for both schools as the Pirates finished fifth in Conference USA with an 18-11 (9-7) record and the Thundering Herd finished ninth in the conference with a 13-18 (6-10) record. Both teams will next be in action next week at the Conference USA Championships in Tulsa, Okla.
Marshall shot higher than its average in every category, 49.2 percent from the field, 38.5 percent (5-13) from three-point range and 70.0 percent (14-20) from the free throw line. But East Carolina was just a little better in both. The Pirates shot 52.2 percent from the field, 50.0 percent (10-20) from three-point range and 71.8 percent (28-39) from the free throw line including 13-of-16 in the final five minutes.
"It was an exciting basketball game," said head coach Tom Herrion. "For us to fall on the short end of it is disappointing. You can't give up 86 points on the road and expect to win. I thought we were really good on offense, but they were as well."
Goff's 27 points bested his previous career high of 14 points last season at Belmont. On Saturday, Goff was 12-of-19 from the field and added six rebounds and a career-high three steals.
"It didn't surprise me," Herrion said of Goff. "He's a talented kid. He took shots within the offense and played with great confidence as a senior should down the stretch."
East Carolina jumped out to a 12-3 lead at the 14:51 mark. The first Marshall field goal made that was not by Goff, who made seven of his first 10 field goal attempts, came at the 5:11 mark of the first half, a layup by DeAndre Kane to cut the Herd deficit to 23-17. ECU went into halftime with a 35-25 lead.
Marshall opened the second half on a 15-5 run to take a 41-40 lead with 14:57 to play. The Pirates led most of the half, but the Herd did lead by three points, 62-59, with 5:58 remaining. After two free throws by ECU's Miguel Paul, who had a team-high 22 on his senior night, with 5:13 to play, the Pirates led 63-62, a lead it never surrendered.
"Our execution was terrific," Herrion said. "We just have to do a better job of getting stops down the stretch. We took the lead and then kind of let it slip away. Give credit to East Carolina. They made big plays down the stretch, especially at the free throw line."
Kane scored 18 second half points to finish with 20. He also added 12 assists for his third double-double of the season. He brought down seven rebounds, just three shy of a triple-double.
Junior forward Elijah Pittman was 4-of-7 from three-point range and finished with 21 points.
As the No. 9 seed in the Conference USA Championships, Marshall will face the No. 8 seed at a yet to be determined time.