BOGACZYK: Canty Reaches 500, as Herd Starts 0-0 Again


Kareem Canty

Kareem Canty

March 6, 2014

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By JACK BOGACZYK

HERDZONE.COM COLUMNIST

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – In the final home game of his first Marshall basketball season, freshman point guard Kareem Canty reached a milestone.

In his first “homecoming” at the Henderson Center down I-64 from his Charleston home, another guard in the game – Charlotte junior Pierria Henry -- had what Canty wanted more … and what Coach Tom Herrion and his Thundering Herd has to have to keep the 2013-14 season afloat.

Canty’s late flurry of points weren’t quite enough, as Henry and Charlotte held off the Herd, 74-70, in a Conference USA regular-season finale Thursday that marked Senior Night for 7-foot-2 Yous Mbao, the tallest player in Herd hoops history.

After a one-basket first half, Canty finished with 22 points – 18 of those in the final 11:29. And with a 3-pointer from the left wing with 1:13 to go, became only the third freshman in Herd history to score 500 points in a season.

“Really?” said Canty, who was stunned when told of the accomplishment postgame. “That really means something to me. Thanks.”

It was a bit of salve for Canty, after Henry scored a game-high 26 to lead the 49ers (16-13, 7-9), 19 of those points in an impressive in the second half.

“He’s a good player,” Marshall sophomore guard Chris Thomas said of Henry. “He got hot. He made shots.”

In eight C-USA games at “The Cam” this season, FIU’s Tymell Murphy (29 points) was the only visiting player to score more than the former South Charleston High School multisport star.

As for Canty and Co., the Herd (10-21, 4-12) moves into the C-USA Tournament in El Paso, Texas, and a Tuesday date against 11th-seeded Florida Atlantic (10-21, 5-11). Marshall finished in a tie for 14th place with UTSA (8-21, 4-12), but remains the No. 14 seed in losing the head-to-head tiebreaker via the Roadrunners’ 90-81 home win back on Jan. 9.

In the only regular-season meeting of the C-USA first-round foes, FAU won 65-57 at the Henderson Center on Feb. 1.

The Florida Atlantic-Marshall winner would play sixth-seeded Old Dominion (15-16, 9-7) in Wednesday’s second round.

 “We’re 0-0 now, all of us,” said Canty, who heads to the UTEP-hosted tournament with 509 points this season. “No matter our record, other teams’ records, no matter who has the byes, no team is ahead of us now.

“It’s all about going out and playing and seeing who’s best. If we don’t win, we don’t have any more games to look forward to, so that puts it on us.”

Canty feels there is no dominant team in C-USA, where four teams finished in a first-place tie with 13-3 records (Middle Tennessee, Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech and Tulsa), with UTEP one game behind. Five others teams finished between 9-7 and 7-9.

The Herd is 2-10 in games decided by two possession margins or less. One of those wins came at Charlotte, the other on Sunday over East Carolina. In the last eight games, Marshall is 2-6, with both wins by three and the losses by 3, 3, 6, 3, 7 and 4.

“We’re not getting blown out,” Canty said. “We’re not going to be get blown out. I refuse to get blown out. I watched us get blown out last year (when he sat out as a non-qualifier).

“Look, we’ve played everybody, so we know what to expect. So whoever we play, in whatever game, we’ve got to take it one game at a time. If we win, we can’t be too happy because we have to go out the next day … get ready for next game.”

Canty’s first-season scoring of 509 points is the 39th season of 500 in Herd hoops history, and among freshmen trails only those of Skip Henderson (584 in 1984-85) and DeAndre Kane (513 in 2010-11). Canty also had a game-high seven assists in the Henderson Center finale.

Thomas scored 17 points and had nine rebounds, but Marshall’s needed third scoring force, forward Ryan Taylor, had only a seven-point night as he was burdened with fouls again.

Still, Marshall managed to climb back after being down 70-59 with 1:41 to go on a pair of Henry free throws. With Canty hitting a pair of late threes, the Herd got the deficit sliced to 72-68 with 14.8 seconds to go.

It was too little, too late.

“I don’t know why we wait until the last seven minutes of the game to play,” Canty said. “It’s something we’ve got to work on, and quick.”

Marshall also struggled to cope with Charlotte’s big inside duo of Mike Thorne and Willie Clayton, who combined for 33 points and 20 rebounds. The 49ers won the glass battle, 43-38, and the Herd shot a .386 percentage from the field, the 10th time in 16 league games MU has hit .400 or lower, including the last five.

The 49ers hit 50 percent.

“Our defense was not very good … to say the least,” Herrion said. “Our post defense and transition defense was very bad early in the game. Our zone defense was actually decent, but they scored early against us by just running us. They got us in transition and we had poor balance offensively.

“With that said, we just can’t keep shooting 39 percent from the floor offensively. We can’t keep doing that. That puts so much pressure on our defense to get every stop. It’s just really, really painful.

“When we have easy scoring opportunities, we leave them empty … dunks, free throws, stickbacks and layups. Our offense was just as big a factor in losing the game tonight than our defense was.”

Canty referenced a team from when he was a senior in high school -- the 2011-12 Herd that won three C-USA Tournament games before falling in the championship game to host Memphis.

“We’re as talented as any team in the conference,” the Herd freshman said. “We just have to believe and play like it. Marshall has done it before; I feel we can do the same thing if we just believe.”