HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- The start was about as welcome as a sucker punch, but the finish was a kick in the gut for Winthrop's Eagles on Saturday against Marshall.
The Eagles dug themselves a 17-0 canyon, somehow climbed out of it and led by five with a minute to play only to see the Thundering Herd tie the score in regulation and win it in overtime 67-62.
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for coach Randy Peele's team and dropped the Eagles to 8-6. They'd already had two bitter losses -- Missouri State, when they blew a 20-point lead, and Mount St. Mary's, when they didn't come ready to play.
But this one? This was different.
"They out-toughed us down the stretch," Peele said. "We didn't start the game in the appropriate fashion. This team doesn't know how to handle prosperity."
He said the Eagles "were fat and happy, but they won't be fat and happy come (practice Sunday) afternoon."
A check of the stat sheet and you wonder how the heck the Eagles came as close as they did to winning.
The Marshall bench outscored its Winthrop counterpart 24-2. The Herd won the boards 45-36, getting 17 offensive rebounds. They made 22-of-32 free throws to Winthrop's 7-of-13. Winthrop committed 19 turnovers and had three starters play at least 41 minutes.
"You get doubled at the free throw line, you aren't going to win, and we almost got tripled," Peele said. "The free throw difference, rebound difference, 19 turnovers and we were still in a position to win. You're not supposed to win. That's unheard of."
But there the Eagles were, up 51-46 with 1:04 left, after Michael Jenkins, who finished with 23 points and seven rebounds, swished a 3-pointer from the right wing as the shot clock ticked toward zero.
That's when dealing with prosperity became the issue.
After a timeout with 59.9 seconds left, the Herd scored in seven seconds, when Mark Dorris beat Mantoris Robinson on a drive starting 20 feet from the hoop.
And after the Eagles turned the ball over going for a home run play on the inbounds pass, Dorris, falling backwards as Antwon Harris charged at it, hit a 3-pointer from about 25 feet to tie it. Dorris, who played with a heavy wrap on his left arm after missing three days of practice, scored 10 of Marshall's final 13 points in regulation and finished with 15, 14 in the second half.
Winthrop had the last shot of regulation. Peele had point guard Chris Gaynor wait until eight seconds remained before initiating the offense, and the best shot the Eagles could get was Taj McCullough's forced 3-pointer.
Peele called that play and the botched inbounds play "lesson learned, twice burned."
In the overtime, the Herd, as they did much of the day, burned the Eagles in the lane. Winthrop led 58-57, when Tirrell Baines, a 6-6 freshman from Laurens, scored on a follow shot to give the Herd the lead for good. Baines finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds. He had nine offensive rebounds.
"They big-boyed us inside," Peele said.
"That's what I do," Baines said. "I get offensive rebounds, and nobody was blocking me off the boards."
Peele said the finish was worse than the start, and the start was pretty hard to take.
The Eagles came out as cold as the West Virginia winter, missing their first 12 shots and letting the Herd dictate the game with their full-court pressure. Through the first 10 minutes, the Eagles played like they'd never seen a full-court press, and with 11:21 to go, Marshall was up 17-0.
And when Harris slipped into the lane for a short shot that rattled home for Winthrop's first bucket with 10:55 left, the home crowd gave the Eagles a mock cheer.
About six minutes later, after the Eagles decided to play a little defense and went on a 19-6 run, the Herd lead was down to 23-21. The Eagles found that playing defense and stopping easy buckets kept the Herd from applying the full-court pressure.
"We got complacent with the lead," Dorris said, "but we stayed together."
Down 29-23 at the half, the Eagles were more than fortunate. They seemed to take control at the outset of the second half and led 42-36 with 9:16 to play. They were getting open and knocking down shots.
"We went up 17-0, came out with an edge," Marshall coach Donnie Jones said. "But at the half, I told our guys they'd been in big games before, had four seniors and would come out with a different intensity level.
"Somehow we made big plays, hit some free throws. We found a way down the stretch."
The Herd (8-4) found a way, despite shooting 29 percent overall and 16 percent on 3-pointers in the second half. After scoring 46 points in the first 39 minutes, the Herd scored 19 in the last minute of regulation and overtime.
Part of the way was paved by Winthrop's 39 percent shooting and the fact they got nothing offensively from their bench.
But Peele chalked this one up to grit.
"We're not tough enough," he said, "and it showed up."