Burks, Herd edge IUPUI; Elmore breaks scoring record
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The minutes seemed to crawl by. At 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday night inside the Henderson Center, Jon Elmore tied James Woodrow “Skip” Henderson for the Marshall men’s basketball career scoring record.
It seemed apropos that Elmore spent seven more minutes in real time in a deadlock with Henderson. The dynamic scorers shared history, even though they played for the Thundering Herd three decades apart.
Finally, at 8:22 p.m., Elmore was bumped on a drive to the left of the hoop, finished the shot as the whistle blew and then let his emotions out as the crowd of 3,725 roared.
Elmore scored 22 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, dished out seven assists and collected five steals in the Thundering Herd’s 78-73 win against IUPUI in the first round of the CollegeInsiders.com Tournament. Elmore was named the Most Valuable Player of the Jim Phelan Classic, the name of Tuesday’s game. He is now the school’s career record-holder for points, assists, free throws and 3-pointers.
“Jon was terrific,” Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni said. “I got a little worried there in the first half … he was trying to do too much.”
Elmore scored the final points of the first half to give the Herd a 40-38 edge at intermission. He had 5 points at the half, well off the pace needed to catch Henderson this game. Then, Elmore hit a 3-pointer 41 seconds into the second half, and another 31 seconds later. Elmore hit two more – at the 17:51 mark and then 68 seconds later – to give the Herd a 52-45 lead and put the senior from Charleston, West Virginia, within 2 points of catching Henderson’s lofty career scoring mark.
Elmore tied the record on a floater in the lane with 15:04 left, which gave Marshall (20-14) a 56-47 lead. Elmore’s historical 3-point play came with 10:25 left of the game when he drove and was fouled by IUPUI’s Jakoby Kemp. The free throw was Elmore’s final point of the night, but history had already been made.
“I’ve made a lot of shots, but I’ve missed a lot of shots, too,” Elmore said. “They never told me to stop shooting. My dad never told me to stop shooting. My mom never told me to stop shooting. Everybody believed in me from day one. Having people believe in you goes a long way.”
Elmore, who now ranks No. 42 in Division I men’s college basketball history in points scored, said Henderson sent a letter with a childhood friend, which was read to the team prior to the game.
“What he did in between those lines representing Marshall on the court was unparalleled,” Elmore said. “Having him reach out and saying ‘Congratulations’ and he wanted me to break the record meant a lot. He didn’t have to do that … he said that he was proud and that records are meant to be broken and he was glad that I was doing it.”
Elmore wasn’t alone in making history Tuesday night. C.J. Burks, a senior from Martinsburg, West Virginia, scored a game-high 25 points on 10 of 20 shooting. He jumped two spots on MU’s career scoring list, passing J.R. VanHoose (1,803 points from 1998-2002) and Russell Lee (1,815 points from 1969-72) to move into fifth place in career points with 1,827.
“C.J. had a great game, especially early. He was really tough at the beginning,” D’Antoni said.
Burks has played 127 games, the fourth-most in program history. He has managed to become one of Marshall’s greatest scorers while playing alongside Elmore, who is also the Conference USA all-time leading scorer.
“It’s very difficult when your running mate is the No. 1 scorer,” D’Antoni said.
After the buzz surrounding Elmore and Burks subsided, Marshall had to buckle down to continue to advance in the 26-team CIT. Marshall’s largest lead was 15 points with 10:07 left of the second half, 18 seconds after Elmore’s record-setting points. IUPUI (16-17) twice cut the lead to 4 points – at 4:29 and 3:25 – and then Camron Justice scored with 1:21 left to pull the Jaguars within 2, 75-73.
Burks then made three of four free throws to close out the win and assure the Herd of another game next Tuesday.
“Being from West Virginia, it’s a complete honor,” Burks said. “Us breaking the records shows how hard we work. We work unbelievably hard. I don’t think anybody really knows the ins and outs of that. The coaching staff and fans believe in us. Having a great support system like that helping us every day helps us a lot.”
Elmore echoed Burks’ sentiments.
“I’m not going to lie – that was the hardest 20 points I’ve ever scored in my life,” Elmore said. “I’ve been blessed to have a lot of great teammates who enjoy each other’s success.
“I’ve tried to represent Marshall in the best way possible. Marshall has done a lot for me, so I hope I have done a good job of representing Huntington, Marshall and the state of West Virginia.”
The win gives D’Antoni a 20-win season in three consecutive years. Only one other coach in Marshall men’s basketball history has three consecutive 20-win seasons: Cam Henderson, who has the team’s home arena named after him. Henderson last won 20-plus games in three straight seasons in 1945-46, 1946-47 and 1947-48 – 25-10, 32-4 and 22-11. He won 20-plus games in four consecutive seasons to end the 1930s.
Elmore entered Tuesday’s game tied for No. 46 with Arizona’s Sean Elliott on the NCAA Division I career scoring list. He moved past VMI’s Reggie Williams, Notre Dame’s Austin Carr, College of Charleston’s Andrew Goudelock and Henderson, and is now No. 42 in college hoops history in points scored.
Elmore also moved up the NCAA career assists list, passing Cal-State Northridge’s Markus Carr (767), Iowa State’s Monte Morris (768) and St. Mary’s star Matthew Dellavedova. Elmore now has 772 assists, which is tied for No. 45 in college hoops history with Maryland great Greivis Vasquez.
Elmore made five 3-pointers, which gives him a personal single-season best of 103 for the season. He is the third player in MU history to make at least 100 3-pointers in a single season, joining Keith Veney, who did it twice, and former teammate Austin Loop. Elmore also attempted 13 3-pointers Tuesday, which gives him the Conference USA record for most 3-pointers attempted with 972. The previous mark, 960, was held by Charlotte’s Demon Brown (2000-04).
Elmore is now third in school history in career steals with 176, trailing Henderson (208) and David Wade (186). Elmore passed Jeff Battle (172) and Travis Young (173) on Tuesday night.
Burks broke a tie for fifth place on the school’s career 3-pointers list with Joda Burgess (210). Burks had two against IUPUI.
Sophomore guard Jarrod West collected four steals against IUPUI, and now has 73 on the season. The school record for steals in a single season is shared by Sidney Coles (1995-96) and Jeff Guthrie (1996-97) at 75. West is two behind. West and Burks (61) are the first Marshall teammates to reach 60 steals in the same season, and Elmore is up to 59 steals on the season.
Story author Chuck McGill is the Assistant Athletic Director for Fan/Donor Engagement and Communications at Marshall University and a seven-time winner of the National Sports Media Association West Virginia Sportswriter of the Year award. In addition to HerdZone.com’s Word on the Herd, McGill is the editor of Thundering Herd Illustrated, Marshall’s official athletics publication. Follow him on Twitter (@chuckmcgill) and Instagram (wordontheherd).