HUNTINGTON — One thing seems apparent for the 2012-13 Thundering Herd men’s basketball team.
Nothing is going to come easy.
After trailing by eight at the half to a team better than its 1-7 record, Marshall shot 58 percent from the field in the second half to rally past Coppin State, 69-63, on Saturday night at the Cam Henderson Center.
“Another hard fought win,” said Marshall Coach Tom Herrion. “Give Coppin a lot of credit.
“They played exactly how I thought they’d play. They just kept playing and had a lot of confidence early.”
The Eagles have already played USC and Texas in the Maui Invitational, Loyola and St. Joe’s at home and at No. 1-ranked Indiana, so Coppin State was not going to be intimidated by the Henderson Center, with a season-low crowd of 5,152.
They threw a zone at the Herd most of the night, and Marshall came out very slow as is traditional in the game following the Capital City Classic match-up with West Virginia (who knocked off undefeated Virginia Tech today in Morgantown, 68-67, to improve to 4-3).
Marshall has traditionally not played well after a win or loss to the Mountaineers, going 4-4 in the next game during the Mid-American Conference years (1997-2005).
But this was the first win of the Conference USA era after the WVU game, now 1-7, and the first time it was a non-conference team instead of a C-USA team
The Thundering Herd (6-4), which was bothered all night by the Eagles (1-8) zone defense, trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half.
Marshall was, frankly, awful in the first half, as Herrion burned two timeouts in the first 2:31 of the game as his team fell behind 6-0 on a goaltending call on a lay-up and two dunks by the smaller Eagles of the MEAC.
At the 11:50 mark of the first half, Marshall trailed by 12 points, 19-7, and trailed at the half, 34-26, after shooting just 32 percent (12-of-38), an awful 2-of-16 from three (13 percent) and missing both free throws.
“We are moving the ball. We still cannot put the ball in the basket around the lane,” said Herrion of the poor shooting.
“It’s killing us early in the game,” said the Herd coach, who was especially shocked by the slow start after what he called “the best practice of the year” on Friday.
Early in the second half, the Herd got a three from Elijah Pittman, D.D. Scarver hit a lay-up and Nigel Spikes had a dunk in the first 2:29 of the second half to cut the lead to four at 37-33 with 17:31 on the clock.
However, Coppin State kept the lead until Marshall started pressing the full court, led by freshman guards Tamron Manning and DeVince Boykins.
The two youngsters helped the Herd to slow the Eagles rush up court, and forced a couple of quick turnovers when they entered the game, and a Pittman dunk finally tied the game at 46-46 with 12:24 left.
Then it was time for Coppin State Coach Fang Mitchell to take two time outs in less than a minute as Marshall turned up the pressure.
“It looks like a 1-3-1, because the way we flare our wings out,” said Herrion of the half-court defense by the Herd.
“It is something we practice every day,” said Herrion.
“Our bench gave us some good minutes tonight. Tamron Manning and Boykins in particular gave us really good minutes tonight and in that second half especially.”
Marshall took its first lead of the game, 49-48 with 9:51 to play, on a three-pointer by Pittman, who was 2-of-7 from three, scored 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field, and blocked a game-best three shots.
The Eagles then pushed its lead back to six points, at 55-49, by scoring the next seven points of the game.
Scarver, who led all players with 20 points, then hit back-to-back three-pointers to help the Herd finish the game on a 20-8 scoring run.
The junior guard shot lights out in the game: 7-of-13 from the floor, 4-of-9 from three and 2-of-2 from the line.
Marshall was 5-of-9 from three-point range in the second half and 14-of-24 (58.3 percent) in the second half.
“I think if you go back, like we will go back when we look at the tape later tonight, I think you’ll find that 90 percent of the shots we took were good shots, they just weren’t falling,” said Herrion.
“Not to say we don’t need to fix some things. We have to finish around the basket.”
The second thing the Herd did in the second half was play defense, holding the Eagles to 2-of-10 from three and only 41 percent from the field (13-of-32).
Then, the final thing was to hit its free throws — finally.
Marshall had struggled all night to make free throws, going 2-of-7 for the first 17 minutes of the second half.
Then, with Coppin State fouling and sending the Herd to the line, the team nailed 8-of-10 free throws in the final three minutes — and one of the misses was a rebound and stick back for senior forward Dennis Tinnon of Marshall.
Tinnon recorded his 15th career double-double with 15 points and 15 rebounds, hitting 6-of-12 from the floor and a perfect 3-for-3 from the line.
He and Spikes (who had 11 boards) paced the Herd to 47 rebounds, a plus-18 advantage against the 29 rebounds by the Eagles, and 20 of MU’s 47 were offensive rebounds.
Junior guard DeAndre Kane, who didn’t start, still played 37 minutes and had nine points, five rebounds, four turnovers (all in the first half) and 11 assists.
Herrion was thrilled with the way the Herd, as a team, shared the ball against Coppin State.
“We had 26 made baskets with 21 assists,” Herrion said. “We are being unselfish.
Boykins, who was a redshirt last year and injured a knee this summer, came off the bench and played a career-high 11 minutes.
His three-pointer at the 13:25 mark of the second half were his first three career points and helped lead the comeback.
Manning, a true frosh, still has not scored, launching his first shot of his career from three, but did a nice job of running the point and playing defense, playing a career-best 12 minutes with one rebound, one assist and no turnovers.
“They both have practiced well lately,” said Herrion, who got 14 points off another short bench.
Senior forward Robert Goff had to sit a game, due to his flagrant foul against West Virginia on Wednesday.
Sophomore Jamir Hanner scored two points, with two rebounds and an assist in nine minutes off the bench.
Along with strong bench play, Marshall also benefited by staying out of foul trouble — the Herd was called for just nine fouls.
Now the Herd has another test, literally.
This is the week of final exams for the fall semester for all Marshall students.
Then, the Herd’s next game will be next Saturday against undefeated and No. 11/12-ranked Cincinnati, who wailed on Maryland Eastern Shore, 90-62, to improve to 9-0 on the season.
Marshall beat the Bearcats in Cincinnati in overtime last season, 73-69, and the rematch will be at 2 p.m. in the Charleston Civic Center.
The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network, and heard on the Thundering Herd/IMG Sports Network on flagship stations The Dawg, 93.7 FM and SuperTalk 94.1 FM and AM 930, with Steve Cotton and Woody Woodrum.
The win makes Marshall 5-0 at home for the first time since the 2009-10 season, when the Herd began the year 10-0 inside the Cam Henderson Center.
Improves the Herd’s mark to 8-1 all-time against MEAC teams.
Gives Marshall its 1,389 all-time program win.
Makes MU 343-106 all-time inside the Henderson Center.
Improves Coach Tom Herrion to 129-68 all-time and 49-30 as the head coach at Marshall.
Gives the Herd a record of 27-6 in games under Herrion when it out-rebounds the opponent by 10 or more.
Marshall has won the opening tip in 10 of its 11 games (exception was at Hofstra).
The Thundering Herd has now made a three-pointer in 689 consecutive games.
Herrion picked up his 49th win at Marshall and, with his next win, he will become the quickest Herd coach to 50 wins since Rick Huckabay (1983-89).
Marshall tied a season-high with 21 assists (at Hofstra).
20 offensive rebounds gives MU its second game this season (Morehead State, 24) in which it has collected 20 or more boards on the offensive glass.
It is the 10th time the Herd, under Herrion has had at least 20 offensive rebounds.
The Herd committed a season-low nine fouls. It is the lowest total since a game versus UAB February 9, 2011.
Nigel Spikes played in his 100th career game, becoming the 34th Marshall player to be a part of 100 games, and Spikes had his 12th career game of double-digit rebounds with 11, the fourth time this season for the senior.
Dennis Tinnon had 15 rebounds, the 23rd time in his career and fourth time this season he has collected 10 or more rebounds in a game.
D.D. Scarver and Elijah Pittman each extended their made three-pointer streak to 10 games (each game of their career).
Scarver has now scored double-digit points in seven straight games and has been the leader scorer in a game five times.
Pittman had 10 or more points for the eighth time during his nine-game career with 14.
DeAndre Kane dished out 11 assists, marking his fourth career double-digit assist game and third of the season.