BOGACZYK: Owls Keep Herd from Back-to-Back Success|
Feb. 1, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall had a miracle finish to beat Florida Atlantic in football this season, but Thundering Herd kicker Justin Haig was nowhere to be found for a big three-point field goal on Saturday afternoon.
The hoops Herd couldn’t quite overcome the Owls this time, as FAU built a 14-point lead with 8:27 to play and then held off Marshall, 65-57, at the Henderson Center.
An Autism Awareness Day crowd of 4,802 watched the Herd (8-15, 2-6) climb within three at 60-57 with 33 seconds left, but Coach Tom Herrion’s club couldn’t finish the rally.
For a second straight Conference USA week, Marshall won a Thursday night game, but 48 hours later struggled. Consistency escaped the Herd once again, as did veteran coach Mike Jarvis’ visitors (8-14, 3-4).
“It’s just very frustrating, winning a game and having that momentum and then coming into the next game and then being down at half, it kind of drops you a little bit,” said Herd freshman forward Ryan Taylor, who scored 14 points in the loss. “We tried to pick it back up and pull the game out, but just being up and down like a roller coaster, it is very frustrating.”
Marshall hasn’t been able to win back-to-back games since Nov. 23 and 26 at home against UNC Wilmington and Western Kentucky, respectively, but the lack of consistency for MU has been as much half-to-half as it has been game-to-game.
“It’s tough, especially at home with a terrific crowd,” Herrion said of the Herd’s in-and-out play this season. “I thought FAU played harder than we did. That’s what pains me the most and frustrates me the most.
“I thought we were very inconsistent and missed some shots. We left some points at the foul line again which hasn’t happened in a while. I didn’t like our effort level today and that disappoints me greatly.”
FAU shot 53.2 percent – a season best for a Henderson Center visitor – and Marshall struggled against the Owls’ active 2-3 zone after conquering the FIU zone fewer than 48 hours earlier on the same floor. FAU also owned the glass, outrebounding Marshall 37-29.
“We didn’t defend. We didn’t rebound. End of story. Game over,” Herrion said.
The Herd’s lack of size and inside depth showed again, as it was outrebounded for the 10th time in 15 defeats. And when Marshall shoots a .389 percentage as it did Saturday, it exacerbates that Marshall size deficiency.
FAU took advantage in the paint with 6-foot-9 junior Justin Raffington – 19 points and 10 rebounds – and 6-11 backup Grant Pelchen. The Owls got a game-high 20 points from wing Pablo Bertone, who had 12 of those points in the first half when the game’s tone was established.
“Their zone was very active,” Taylor said. “They played passing lanes, and FIU really didn’t play passing lanes like that. But (Florida Atlantic) tried to jump and make us make our next play.
“It was difficult because of their size and their length, and they play with their hands up just about the whole time.
“They just kind of clogged the lanes and we really didn’t make many outside jumpshots. They clogged the lane and then when we tried to penetrate, it was congested down there and we kicked it out and didn’t make outside jumpshots.”
In the first half, as FAU took a 34-25 lead, Raffington and Pelchen combined for 11 points and 10 rebounds. The Herd had only 11 rebounds on those 20 minutes.
“They were tough (inside),” Taylor said. “They blocked out, they blocked me out, blocked TyQuane (Goard) out, tried to keep us off the glass. But just their presence there helped them out on the glass a lot. We usually get a lot of stickback buckets off misses, and we didn’t do that today.”
Two-guard Chris Thomas led Marshall with 16 points, but he managed only four of those in 12 second-half minutes. And after shooting a season-best .842 (16-of-19) at the foul line in the Thursday win to go .775 in the last three games, MU slipped back to its earlier trouble at the stripe on a 9-of-16 day (.563).
The Herd got the deficit down to 60-57 when point guard Kareem Canty made the first of a two-shot free throw opportunity, but he missed the second attempt with 33 seconds left. Then, at 24.9 seconds, FAU’s Jackson Trapp missed the front end of a bonus try, but Marshall’s Shawn Smith was called for a lane violation.
Given new life, Trapp this time made both, and then Raffington hit a pair with 17.6 seconds remaining as the Herd fouled in desperation.
Those four makes in a row were part of a mediocre 10-of-20 game at the line for the Owls – the worst free-throwing against the Herd since South Carolina State hit only 11-of-26 in MU’s season-opening win.
“We were playing well against (FAU’s) man and then they went zone,” the Herd’s fourth-year coach said. “They started in man defense and we carved them up. We got what we wanted. We were stuck on 19 points for about five minutes (5:48, while FAU was going on a 10-0 run in a 2:08 span within that stretch).
“In that same stretch for us, man or zone, we didn’t get any stops. If they shoot 54 percent and outrebound you by eight or nine, then you’re in trouble. I don’t care who you’re playing this time of year … plain and simple.
“Offensively, we struggled. Our attack wasn’t as good as I’d like against a zone at times. We didn’t get it into the high post enough. They took it away. We didn’t defend and we didn’t rebound. That lost us the game this afternoon.”
Now, the Herd goes on the road for three straight, starting with a Friday night date (9:30 ET, CBS Sports Network telecast) at Southern Miss, which shares the league lead with UTEP. Then it’s a Sunday afternoon game at Tulane before a Feb. 15 game at Charlotte.
Marshall comes home Feb. 20 and 22 against UAB and Middle Tennessee, respectively.