“But I’m proud of the way we hung our hat tonight on defense,” said Herrion.
“I really feel good about tonight, walking out later on tonight — out of my office — that you can win when you defend and rebound.
“You tell them there’s a tree in the road … you tell them there’s a tree in the road … until they hit the tree, they don’t know.
“Defend. (Defense) and rebound wins games. Offense is fickle. We found that out tonight.”
Marshall shot only 33.3 percent from the floor (20-of-60), and a paltry 2-of-17 from three, only 11.8 percent.
But the Herd (4-3), led by senior forward Dennis Tinnon, who put up his second double-double of the season with 16 rebounds and 12 points, found a way to hold off the Eagles (4-3) in front of a season-best crowd of 5,877 on a church night in the Tri-State.
“That’s a good win in a rivalry game. It’s exactly what I expected to be honest. A war,” said Herrion of bringing the two teams back together.
With the win, Marshall defeated the Eagles for the 12th time over the last 14 meetings and the 11th consecutive time at home — Morehead State has never won in the Henderson Center since it opened in 1981.
The longtime series of the two schools, just a short distance away along I-64, now favors the Herd, 50-44, with the first game contested in 1908.
As a team, Marshall out-rebounded MSU, 53-46, ending the game plus-9, although the margin was as much as plus-15 in the second half.
It was the most rebounds for the Herd since recording 55 three seasons ago against VMI (12/19/10).
“Give [Morehead State head coach Sean Woods] a lot of credit. They play so hard,” said Herrion of the first-year coach of the Eagles.
“It might be the hardest playing team we’ve played so far. They disrupt you with some of the traps, and you try to simulate it in practice but you can’t."
But while Marshall did not shoot well, neither did Morehead State.
The Eagles finished the night shooting 36.6 percent, making 26-of-71 shots.
Even though the Eagles were better from three, hitting 7-of-16 (43.8 percent), Marshall iced the game at the free throw line — especially on the shooting of junior guard D.D. Scarver.
The aggressive Morehead State defense rang up 32 fouls on the night, 22 coming in the second half when Marshall held the lead most of the final 20 minutes.
That sent the Herd to the free throw line some 44 times, but the poor-shooting Herd might have not taken advantage of that if Herrion had not changed his inbound play late in the game.
With a five-point lead, 59-54, and senior center Nigel Spikes fouling out with just under two minutes to play, Herrion changed from junior point guard DeAndre Kane getting the ball to Kane taking the ball out, after Kane missed two free throws at the 1:54 mark.
Herrion then had Kane take the ball out, and he got it to Scarver, who went 10-for-10 at the line in the final 1:17 of the game to ice the win for the Herd.
Why did Herrion pick Scarver to get the ball?
“I knew he would make them. I didn’t feel. I knew he would make them. He’s a really good shooter,” said Herrion.
“That was by design. I knew he’d make them. He’s a good catch guy. He catches and then was able to turn and go.
“The most important thing in those situations is getting the ball in bounds.
“Our best passer was taking the ball out of bounds, most times, in Kane. You execute, get the ball into the guy you think is hot in that situation.
“We know they are going to trap or foul most likely so it’s not really complicated.”
Marshall was whistled for 17 fouls, just slightly lower than its average of 22 fouls per game.
Morehead State got to the line just 16 times, and, worse yet, made only eight of 16 for 50 percent.
Marshall shot 63.6 percent from the line, making 28-of-44, and Scarver led the way with 12-of-13 in the game and led the Herd in scoring with 17 points.
“I think we have to shoot better at the free throw line anytime. I knew we would have a chance to get to the free throw line a lot,” said Herrion.
“Forty-four is a large number. But I knew we would have a chance. We outscore them 28-8 on the foul line.
“Attempts, you guys will talk about attempts and all that. Talk about 28-8 — plus 20 — plus 20 at the foul line.”
Woods was pleased with the effort, if not the officiating.
“Our guys fought, but we didn’t do the little things,” said Woods, a member of the 1992 Kentucky Wildcats as a player.
“(Marshall) attacked the glass, that’s what they do, but its tough when it is 44-to-16 at the free throw line.”
Woods said the plan was to foul Kane, who was 3-of-14 at the line on this past Saturday against Nevada, and 3-of-9 tonight.
“We couldn’t get 50 on the line,” said Woods of Kane’s jersey number.
“Scarver did a good job for them of getting open. We tried to deny his, but he was quick enough to go get the ball — the best free throw shooter got it.
“But its a work in progress for us, a new system with new guys. We have to learn to play hard, guard hard but not foul.”
Still, after fouling Scarver for those ten attempts, Morehead State would not go away.
Scarver hit two free throws to put Marshall up by its big lead of the night, eight points at 63-55, with 1:02 left, but Jarrett Stokes hit a three on the next trip to cut the lead to five.
Tinnon got to the line on the next inbounds after a MSU timeout, but hit one-of-two to put the Herd up 64-58 with 45 seconds left, but back came the Eagles with guard Devon Atkinson racing up the court for a lay-up to cut the lead again to four with 38 ticks left.
Scarver hit two more free throws with 35 seconds left, but then Kane fouled Bakari Turner, and Morehead State got two points to pull withing four, 66-62, with the clock stopped at 25 seconds.
Scarver again hit two more after a foul two seconds later, but Morehead State crashed the glass off a Turner missed three, and Bruce Reed grabbed a second offensive rebound to keep the score at four, 68-64, with 12 seconds left.
When Scarver hit two more free throws with nine seconds, the Herd crowd finally started putting on jackets but the Eagles were not done.
Back up the court came Atkinson to drill a three with four seconds and MSU took its final time out, with the score at 70-67.
On the inbounds, the Eagles finally made a play, knocking the ball away from Scarver and out of bounds with :03.1 on the clock.
But on the inbounds, Scarver made up for the mistake by blocking Turner’s desperation three, Kane rebounded the miss and the Herd took a hard fought win.
Early on, the Herd should have led by more than 24-23 at halftime, but the shots were not falling, and Herrion did not believe it was poor shot selection.
“We had good looks we didn’t knock down in the first half,” Herrion said, whose team was 9-of-34 in the first half and a dismal 0-for-11 from three.
“Some of that came from letting them dictate tempo early on with their frantic defenses.
“I’m pretty sure they are one of the top two or lead the country in fouls — and that’s not disparaging; it’s an honest statement about how physical, aggressive, nothing dirty.
“We talked about that with our kids, that that’s their nature. Everyone has their own style. We had to react to it.
“We had to react to it and respond, and we did. We did.”
Marshall never trailed in the second half, but never comfortably pulled away either, leading anywhere from two to eight points.
Scarver and Tinnon wer joined in double-figures by Spikes and DeAndre Kane.
Spikes finished with 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field and nine rebounds while Kane had 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, with four turnovers and two steals, playing 39 minutes.
Morehead State was led by Stokes who finished with 14 points and five rebounds.
Milton Chavis, who entered the game as the Eagles’ leading scorer, had 11 points, but was just 4-of-14 from the field.
For Herrion, a win is a win.
“Clearly a lot of things we’ve got to get better at, but a good win. Good fan support tonight so I’m excited about the win, how we won.
“There’s nothing wrong with winning ugly. There’s nothing wrong with winning ugly.
“And I think that was a really good test for our club.”
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Marshall will next be in action on Saturday at the Cam Henderson Center when UNC Wilmington comes to town at 7 p.m.
Marshall won in Wilmington last season, 69-64, but trails in the all-time series, 2-1. The Seahawks beat the Herd in 2003-04 and 2004-05, including a 65-56 win in game one in the series in Huntington.
Longtime Herd fans will remember UNCW head coach Buzz Peterson, who hooked up with the Herd while coaching Appalachian State in 1996-97, Marshall’s last year in the Southern Conference.
Peterson also worked as an assistant at Appy State, from 1987-89, was well as at East Tennessee State (1989-90), and was again the head coach of the ASU Mountaineers when they beat the Herd in the CIT in March of 2010, 80-72.
The Seahawks are 3-3 on the season, following winning the Wilmington Division of the Nations of Coaches Classic Sunday at Trask Coliseum over Hampton, 61-60.
UNCW also beat Wofford at home in the Classic, 49-37, and have a win over rival UNC-Asheville, 67-59 in Wilmington.
The losses have all been on the road, at Richmond (101-58), at Ohio U. (85-47) and at Purdue (66-40).
The Seahawks are led by 6-foot-8 senior forward Keith Rendleman, who is averaging 16.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. UNCW has two seven-foot players, along with a 6-foot-10, two at 6-foot-9 and two other 6-foot-8 players besides Rendleman.
# # # #
The Marshall Student-Athlete Advisory Council will be collecting for its annual food drive all this week.
The SAAC will be at Kroger’s on Seventh Avenue and First Street in Huntington on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with Marshall student-athletes JP Kambola and Tameron Manning of the Herd basketball team scheduled to be there with The Dawg, 93.7 FM, the 100,000-watt Voice of the Herd.
Fans who bring canned food to Saturday’s game against UNCW can purchase a $10 general admission ticket for only $5.
Collection bins are located at all four entrances of the Henderson Center throughout the rest of the week through Saturday’s game.