Jan. 30, 2014
Final Stats |
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – In what has been an ice-cold winter for the Tri-State region, Marshall found some needed warmth against a team from the Sunshine State.
In the aftermath of the Herd’s 80-68 Henderson Center victory over Florida International on Thursday night, someone asked four Marshall players in the postgame interview room what was the difference between the triumph and nights where the Herd wasn’t as successful.
That one could have been answered in multiple ways.
Marshall continued its recent free throw-stripe improvement with its best night of the season at the line (16-of-19). The Herd also committed a season-low nine fouls and matched its season low of nine turnovers.
Kareem Canty and Ryan Taylor – seeming locks for the 2013-14 Conference USA All-Freshman Team – got some needed scoring help. And a 1-3-1 halfcourt zone did just enough to cut off the driving lanes that smooth and athletic FIU star Tymell Murphy used so well.
So, what did a Herd veteran – at least on this team – see as the biggest difference against FIU (11-10, 3-3)?
“I think effort,” said sophomore guard Tamron Manning, who scored 10 of his career-high 15 points in the first half, when he also had two steals and two rebounds in 12 off-the-bench minutes. “When guys missed shots, they didn’t put their heads down. They went and did something else, like go get a rebound or go after a loose ball.
“I think that’s another thing we have to understand. You’re not always going to shoot well, but there’s a lot more to this game. If you don’t shoot well, OK, go get a rebound, or dive on the floor, and I think our younger guys are learning that you can contribute more ways than by scoring. And I think that’s what’s helping us click a bit.’
The Herd (8-14, 2-5) shot 50.9 percent for a second straight game. Canty finished with his fourth double-double of the season, but he had none of his 16 points in the first half – and the redshirt freshman guard didn’t force things on a 10-assist night. He was 5-of-12 from the floor with only two turnovers in 38 minutes.
Coach Tom Herrion used his ninth starting combination of the season, and while Manning came off the bench for his career scoring best, the 6-foot-8 Taylor avoided deep foul trouble and stayed on the floor long enough to score 14 points.
The Herd also was very patient when FIU went to a zone in the first half, rather than jacking up shots behind the arc. MU took only nine of those in the half, 17 in the game.
But the Marshall scoring leader was two-guard Chris Thomas, who scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half – including 10 in the first 5:17 of the period when FIU and Marshall were playing point-counterpoint.
Canty didn’t score his first basket until he hit a 3-pointer with 13:05 left. That started a run of 10 points from the playmaker in a span of 4:32. The Herd needed all of those from the two guards.
In the first nine minutes of a second half that started 34-34, there were seven ties and six lead changes. Neither team had more than a two-point lead until a Manning layup with 10:24 left gave the hosts a 56-53 edge. Taylor was back on the floor by then, and played the final 11 minutes without fouling.
That long point-for-point stretch was one of those where the growing-up Herd might have wilted in previous games, right?
“Yeah, but the guys who aren’t that experienced are starting to learn,” said Manning, the Georgetown, Ky., native whose 307 minutes last season was the most played in 2012-13 by anyone among the current Herd. “It’s a game of runs. That’s basketball.
“We’re going to score; they’re going to score. You can’t get down on yourself when they go up two or they go up five. You’ve got to stay poised and keep trying to stop people from scoring. You’ve got to get over adversity like that, not give into it.”
The Herd needed just that kind of resiliency, because the Panthers wouldn’t go away thanks to the 6-5 Murphy. The senior from Brooklyn, N.Y. scored 29 points – a career best and the single-game high a C-USA game so far this season.
Marshall took only 17 threes, and all eight of the players Herrion used contributed between three and five rebounds. The 16-of-19 free throwing gives Marshall a .739 percentage (85-of-115) in its last five games.
“It was a very good win for our club -- make no mistake about it,” Herrion said. “It was very critical for us to protect our home court. In the second half, the zone was really good to us and a lot of guys stepped up tonight.
“We made winning plays on both ends of the court. You know, the losses kill you more than the wins.”
It’s a quick turnaround for the Herd and another Sunshine State visitor, as Florida Atlantic (7-14, 2-4) makes its first trip to the Henderson Center – where Marshall is 7-4 this season -- for a noon tipoff Saturday on Autism Awareness Day for Herrion and many of his college coaching brethren.
FAU fell 62-53 at Charlotte on Thursday night.
Canty is one of only two C-USA players who ranks in the league’s top 10 in scoring and assists. Taylor is among only three in the top 15 in scoring and rebounding. They need help, however, and the Herd got it from Thomas and Manning against the Panthers.
“It’s to the point where Chris and me, especially, have to help Kareem,” Manning said. “The way he played tonight, we need him to play like that every day. He didn’t take a lot of shots, but he still facilitated and when we needed him to take a bunch of shots and produce, he did.
“When I score and Chris scores, then Kareem doesn’t feel the pressure to have to keep us in games and force things. He plays a lot better.”
Ditto for the Herd.
“You have to go through experience to gain experience,” Herrion said. “Winning becomes a habit. Our locker room feels a lot better when you win.”