Tuesday, 05 March 2013 13:43

Word on the HERD: Marshall men looking for elusive consistency in home finale

Written by  JACK BOGACZYK, HI Editor

HUNTINGTON — For the last game of the 2012-13 basketball season at the Cam Henderson Center, hopefully Marshall Coach Tom Herrion’s team won’t play defense on “Senior Night” like five guys already collecting Social Security.

After a meltdown defensively in Saturday’s 103-76 loss at Houston, the Thundering Herd tonight entertains Southern Mississippi (22-7, 11-3), which provided MU with a 102-46 Conference USA beat down back on Jan. 23 at Reed Green Coliseum.

After both of those games, Herrion used the word “manhandled.”

Those are two of the three 100-point games the Herd (12-17, 5-9) has allowed, and they are indicative of how it’s gone for Marshall, which is like the poetic Longfellow little girl with the curl.

As the saying goes, when the Herd is good, it is very good indeed.

When it is bad, it is horrid. 

In the last meeting with the second-place Golden Eagles, the Herd led 3-0 than was outscored 47-4.

It was 53-17 at halftime. Marshall shot a 33.3 percent. while Southern Miss hit 63.2 percent to win the most lopsided league game in C-USA history.

Even with two wins to finish the regular season — Marshall visits East Carolina (16-11, 7-7) on Saturday — it’s highly unlikely the Herd can find its way into one of the five first-round byes at next week’s C-USA Tournament at Tulsa’s BOK Center.

The Herd is tied for ninth place with Houston and would be the No. 9 seed in an 11-team bracket if the tournament started today.

Marshall already has lost head-to-head tiebreakers with Houston, UAB and Tulane, three teams just ahead of MU.

But even though Massachusetts native Herrion is a Boston Red Sox fan, he does subscribe to a “Yogism” from New York Yankees lore:

“It’s never over ‘til it’s over.”

If his team buys that, the third-year Herd coach thinks they have a chance.

He’s pushing all of the proverbial buttons, too.

“It’s not over, not at all,” Herrion said. “You tell them that.

“We’ve got two regular-season games this week before we go to the conference (tournament).

“When we play really well, we’re really good, but we don’t have a lot of middle ground.

“We’ve played poorly too often. We’ve had a lot of struggles at times.”

At Houston, the Herd was porous defensively. “We had no resistance, no fight,” Herrion said after the game.

“They scored it at will. That disappoints me thoroughly, mightily and wholeheartedly.”

However, Marshall also shot a 36.4 percent, on the heels of a 26.3 percent night in a 52-48 home loss to UAB.

It is Marshall’s lowest shooting mark since a 23.6 percent in a 61-36 loss at Tulane in February 2006 — the Herd’s first C-USA season.

The Herd has missed 42 field goal attempts in each of the last two games.

That number astounded Herrion after it happened in the recent loss to the Blazers — and then it happened again.

“We’ve got to play better, period, got to play (defensively) like we did against UAB and Central Florida (an 82-70 road win on Feb. 20),” Herrion said.

“We didn’t play well at Houston in lot of areas, they got a big lead.

“You’ve got to get up off the mat, dust yourself off … It’s an incredible challenge with Southern Miss coming in.”

The Herd coach said he was encouraged by Sunday’s practice back home in the Gullickson Gym, 24 hours after the loss at nearly empty Hofheinz Pavilion in Houston.

“They come in Sunday afternoon after a very disappointing game, a long trip back, travel troubles, it’s tough,” he said.

“They come in with a really spirited effort, really good attitude.

“That’s what refreshes me, energizes me. It shows they understand that there are still great opportunities left.”

Last season, Marshall finished 9-7 in C-USA, tied for fifth with UAB in the standings, and landed the No. 6 seed for the conference tournament.

The Herd won three straight to reach the title game before running out of gas against Memphis on the Tigers’ home floor.

There’s some C-USA history the Herd might do well to learn, too.

In 17 C-USA tournaments, teams without a first-round bye have reached the championship game eight times.

Four of those eight have won titles and automatic NCAA Tournament berths.

Herrion said he hasn’t dwelled on the 2012 C-USA Tournament run just yet.

“We haven’t talked about it yet,” Herrion said.

“It’s too early. We’ve still got to talk about playing better, playing consistent basketball, which I thought we were and obviously haven’t the last couple of games, especially offensively against UAB and defensively against Houston.”

The Herd's leading scorers include DeAndre Kane, Elijah Pittman and Dennis Tinnon are joined in huddle by senior center Nigel Spikes and freshman guard Tamron Manning at a recent game. (Herd Insider photo by Brad Helton)

Marshall has four players scoring with double-figure averages — juniors Elijah Pittman, DeAndre Kane and D.D. Scarver and senior Dennis Tinnon.

When it comes to rebounding — thought by Herrion and others to be a Herd hallmark this season — has been one of those come-and-go issues.

Marshall has been out-rebounded 15 times in 29 games, and is 3-12 when it loses on the glass.

12 of the team’s 17 losses have come by 10 or more points, and the average defeat in those dozen games is 20.9 points.

That is Herrion’s “poorly too often” reference point.

“It is frustrating,” the Herd coach said about the lack of consistency in a team baffling more than him on more than one occasion.

“It just seems it’s game-to-game, whether it’s individually or collectively.

“It’s always something. We haven’t been able to reach what I’d call a consistent staple with this team, something to hang our hats on.

“That’s my job … obviously it’s been very frustrating, and it disappoints me.”

# # # #

Robert Goff is one of three seniors honored by the Herd tonight before the Southern Miss game, including Nigel Spikes and Dennis Tinnon as well as student manager Neal Scaggs. (HI photo by Brad Helton)

— Tinnon and fellow big men Nigel Spikes and Robert Goff will be the Senior Night honorees before Tuesday’s 7 p.m. tipoff. Spikes’ 52 blocks are sixth in a Herd single season, and Tinnon’s 620 rebounds in a Herd uniform put him fourth among two-year rebounders in MU history, behind Charlie Slack, Bob Burgess and Randy Noll.

Skip Henderson set a SoCon Tournament record that still stands when he scored 55 points against The Citadel in 1988. (Herd Insider file photo)

— Monday marked the 25th anniversary of Herd career scoring leader Skip Henderson’s 55-point Southern Conference Tournament single-game record, against The Citadel in the 1988 first round at the Asheville (N.C.) Civic Center. It’s also the Marshall single-game record and still the SC tourney mark, and Henderson scored those 55 points after being questionable to play due to a severe migraine that lasted all day.

DeAndre Kane needs four steals to enter top 20 in scoring and top 10 in assists and steals. (Herd Insider photo by Brad Helton)

— Kane needs four steals to go into an exclusive MU career club with Henderson as the only Herd players in the top 20 in scoring, top 10 in assists and top 10 in steals. Kane, with 1,445 points in three seasons, needs nine points to move into the MU top 15 and needs one assist to tie A.W. Hamilton, a three-year starting point guard who is the Coach at Hargrave Military Academy, for ninth place on the career list.

Elijah Pittman has averaged 19.0 points per game in his last nine games of the season. (Herd Insider photo by Brad Helton)

— Pittman, averaging a team-leading 15.9 points for the season, has averaged 19.0 points in the last nine games, all double-figure efforts. 

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