HUNTINGTON — Maybe it was a sign of things to come after Cam Henderson Center public address announcer Mike Kirtner uncorked a rare mistake in introducing a Basketball Hall of Fame coach as “Larry Jones.”
It was coaching great Larry Brown — he of the NCAA and NBA titles and Olympics as a player and coach — on the SMU bench, but honestly, Kirtner’s pre-game turnover (truly, the name of his banker) was just the start of an off night for the home team.
SMU never had beaten Marshall in men’s basketball, 0-8 in the Conference USA series.
On Wednesday night, the Mustangs beat the Thundering Herd just about every way possible.
“It’s a terribly disappointing loss, to say the least,” Herd Coach Tom Herrion said after Marshall was humbled by the Mustangs 68-57, in their last C-USA visit to River City before heading for the Big East Conference in 2013-14.
Brown threw a 2-3 zone at the Jekyll/Hyde Herd (9-12, 2-4), which once again must pick up the pieces as it did a week ago after falling at Southern Miss before rebounding to play more than respectably at league co-leader Memphis in a one-point loss last Saturday.
This time, it’s third-place UCF (16-5, 5-1) heading into the Henderson Center for a 2 p.m. tipoff Saturday (CSS telecast).
Marshall senior Robert Goff, and SMU's Shawn Williams, chase down a loose ball but it was Williams and the Mustangs who chased down the best thing of the night - a first-ever win for SMU over the Herd, 68-57. (Herd Insider photo by Brad Helton)
UCF won 58-50 at Tulane — tied for seventh place with the Herd — on Wednesday night and has won 9 of its last 11.
Speaking of rebounding?
Herrion did, after his team dropped Wednesday’s game.
Although the Herd shot a .339 percentage — it was at the other end of the floor where SMU (12-10, 2-5) weaved and knifed its way to success.
Speaking of the wrong identity …
“What frustrates me the most is our lack of ability to gain an understanding of who we are,” Herrion said.
“We just will not defend and rebound every night. We can talk about the offense and the shots and that’s fine, but (SMU hitting) 56 percent, and (the Herd) minus-7 on the glass at the half …
“We did not defend. We did not rebound.
“We’ve lost our identity, in my opinion, to consistently do that, home, away, neutral, and that discourages me greatly.”
Brown got his 1,541st career win — NCAA, NBA, ABA and USA Basketball — easier than might have been expected.
His Mustangs played with poise, but this was no Pony Express … SMU got the clock-milking tempo it wanted and had the Herd misfiring from long range through the game.
The Herd misfired on shots all night, hitting just 20-of-59 (34 percent) from the floor and making only 7-of-28 threes. Nigel Spikes was 1-for-2 and scored four points on the night. (Herd Insider photo by Brad Helton)
“We made them guard for 30 seconds,” Brown said. “I think when you change sides, and move the ball, no matter how good you are defensively, there’s going to be some breakdowns.
“This is probably the best we’ve played offensively all year. Then we rebounded great.
“I think the fact that we controlled clock and moved the defense a lot and got their big people away from the goal we were able to get some good looks. Early on, we hurt their press a little bit.
“Normally, we’re so thankful we break a press, I’m begging them to try to score against the press, and I think we did that a little better tonight.”
Marshall took 28 shots behind the 3-point stripe and 31 inside.
It made only seven 3-pointers, in a game in which it reached a 700th straight with a basket from behind the arc.
Although the home team cut the SMU lead to five on a couple of occasions in the second half, a 1-for-12 effort from deep (.083 percent) in the final 20 minutes helped doom the hosts as the Mustangs got their first C-USA road win under their veteran first-year coach.
“We knew we’d see zone,” Herrion said.
“Twenty-eight that’s a big number, probably too many, especially when you only make seven. We’ll look at it … a lot of them were wide open.
“We missed a lot of wide open shots early in the game, no glass, then our transition defense was deplorable in the first half.
“A lot of things contributed to this loss. Give SMU credit, but it’s a very discouraging loss to say the least.”
One thing that contributed mightily was the Herd’s subpar play inside.
Other than 17 rebounds by senior Dennis Tinnon (of MU’s 35), Marshall got little in the paint, where it was outscored 30-20.
“If you ever watched us coach, I don’t know what a zone is,” Brown said.
“I don’t know how to coach it or to play against it.
“Our bench is so short. The way the game started out, we had three turnovers early. Then they (Marshall) made a few threes.
“When we’re in zone, I think every shot is going in. When someone zones us, I don’t think we’ll make any.
“The zone helped us tempo-wise. I think it helped us on the board because they’re a tremendous rebounding team.
“We tried to use clock almost every possession, and I think at times they got a little impatient.”
Marshall is the only C-USA team with four players among the league’s top 30 scorers (DeAndre Kane, Elijah Pittman, D.D. Scarver, Tinnon) — but no one else on the club averages as much as 5 points per game.
“I thought (MU had) a lot of good shots early, a lot of open shots, we missed a lot of them,” said Herrion, whose team dug a 35-23 hole at the break.
“We didn’t attack (the SMU zone) enough in the gaps or into creases, enough off the dribble.
“I thought we played a little bit side-to-side against it … short corner, baseline a little bit.
“The 28 (3-point attempts), is that too many, yeah, and then we leave 13 points on the foul line, a little bit of a broken record.
“Then again, I’m more discouraged about our defense, how poor we were defensively. Then, to get out-rebounded by six is just unacceptable.”
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