Jan. 8, 2017
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢'Â¬" The last time a Marshall men's basketball team scored at least 110 points in regulation against a Division I opponent was versus East Tennessee State on Feb. 19, 1996. Jon Elmore, now the Thundering Herd's junior guard and leading scorer, was a day shy of turning two months old when that game happened.
Now 22 years old, Elmore ranks No. 21 nationally in scoring (21.1 points per game) and No. 9 nationally in assists (6.5). He is No. 1 in both of those categories in Conference USA, and is second nationally in free throws made (116) and third in free throws attempted (140). He is one of three players in Division I basketball who is averaging 21 points, six assists and four rebounds (Northeastern's T.J. Williams and Washington's Markelle Fultz are the others).
And though Elmore gets the tutelage of former NBA assistant Dan D'Antoni and nine-year NBA veteran Chris Duhon on a daily basis, Saturday's 29-point, 10-assist takeover raised impressed another former NBA fixture. Charlotte coach Mark Price played 12 seasons in the NBA, and finished his career as one of the greatest 3-point shooters and free throw shooters in league history. He made four All-Star teams, so he has seen his share of elite players.
Price is in his second season at Charlotte, and witnessed Marshall and Elmore beat his team 110-93 on Saturday night in Huntington.
"He's playing terrific," Price said of Elmore. "I've watched all their games up to this point trying to get ready for it. He's been playing at that level for a while; most of the season.
"He shoots the ball so well. Obviously, that makes people have to go out and guard him and he's gotten better and better off the bounce. He does a great job of creating contact when he drives."
Price watched Elmore take over in the second half, including a nearly 5-minute span where Elmore scored 12 points ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢'Â¬" all on 2s ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢'Â¬" and helped the Herd turned a 1-point lead into a 9-point cushion. During the stretch, in which Marshall outscored Charlotte 20-12, Elmore had as many points as the visiting 49ers.
Elmore scored all of the baskets on drives to the hoop.
"They had no shot blockers," D'Antoni said. "Once Jon feels like he's got an edge, he's taking it all the way. They had nobody back there to rim-block."
In the first half, Elmore made one of those talk-about-it-forever plays when he tipped a pass from senior forward Ryan Taylor to himself, corralled it and then drained a contested 3-pointer from the left corner as he was fouled. Elmore converted the free throw for a 4-point play.
"Coach D'Antoni drew up a flare play for me," said Elmore, describing the play. "Credit to my Dad and brother. They kind of taught me that play. I saw the ball was about to get picked off and my Dad had pretty good hands and was a pretty good player back in the day, so he showed me a little pop-up play. It worked to perfection. I kind of winked up at him after it happened. It was a pretty funny sequence."
It was one of those moments that can only make a head coach shrug.
"That was a heck of a job, wasn't it?" D'Antoni said. "That was unbelievable."
If the Herd plays 34 games ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢'Â¬" this is a hypothetical; actually, Marshall could play more than that ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢'Â¬" and Elmore sustains his current pace, he will finish with the third-best single-season in points by a player and third-best season in assists (Dan's brother, Mike D'Antoni, has the best two single seasons in assists). Elmore is on pace to break the school record for free throws made and attempted ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢'Â¬" both records held by Leo Byrd.
During Marshall's two-game homestand, Elmore made 14 of 26 shots ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢'Â¬" including 3 of 7 from 3-point range ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢'Â¬" for 55 points (an average of 27.5 points per game). The high point total doesn't mean he is forgetting about his teammates, as he averaged 7.0 assists per game in the two-game home swing. He also had five steals and six rebounds while playing 73 of a possible 85 minutes (85.8 percent). He made 24 of 28 free throws (85.7 percent), making a dozen in each game.
Price concluded his post-game comments Saturday night with a succinct thought on the Herd's young player (Saturday was only Elmore's 41st collegiate game):
"He's a terrific player," Price said.