Jan. 1, 2009
SAN DIEGO - The Marshall University men's basketball team will make its first trip to the state of California in 21 years when it travels to San Diego to take on the USD Toreros on Friday. Tip-off from Jenny Craig Pavilion is scheduled for 10 p.m. ET.
The Thundering Herd (7-5) and Toreros (7-5) will collide for the second time in history on Friday. In the only other meeting, last season in Huntington, Marshall dealt San Diego a 76-60 loss two days after the Toreros upended Kentucky at Rupp Arena. Then freshman Tirrell Baines scored a Marshall-high 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting while USD guard Brandon Johnson netted a game-high 27 points, which included a 5-for-8 mark from 3-point range.
Johnson suffered a season-ending knee injury eight games into this season, his senior campaign, and is not available for Friday's game.
Marshall won its last contest, Sunday versus Tennessee State, with a 74-60 victory over the Tigers. The Herd went 24-of-25 from the free-throw line (96 pct) with Baines scoring a team-high 18 points. Guard Chris Lutz scored a season-high 17 points and is now the Herd's leading scorer on the season with 12 points per game.
The Herd has gone 5-1 since Lutz's return from a hamstring injury. Freshman point guard Damier Pitts is scoring 11 points per game with a team-best 4.0 assists per contest.
San Diego has won three of its last four games, including a 64-61 overtime victory at Mississippi State on Tuesday. Forward Gyno Pomare registered his second double-double of the season with a 10-point, 15-rebound effort against the Bulldogs, although he shot just 4-of-17 from the floor. Guard Trumaine Johnson scored a game-high 17 points with six steals in a game-high 41 minutes and De'Jon Jackson added 13 off the bench.
Pomare, who scored nine points in last season's matchup with Marshall in Huntington, is scoring 14.2 points per game with a team-best 6.7 rebounds per outing. Forward Rob Jones is registering 10.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per contest.
The Toreros average 63 points per game and allow their opposition 60.8 points for a +2.2 scoring margin. As a team, USD is shooting 44.9 percent from the floor and posts a field goal percentage defense of 41.5 percent.
The Tennessee State victory marked MU's first win this season when posting a field goal percentage under 50 percent (22-of-50, 44 pct vs TSU). The Herd is 6-0 this season when shooting at least 50 percent from the field and 1-5 when shooting under 50 percent. Conversely, MU is 5-4 when holding its opponents under 50 percent and 2-1 when allowing the opposition to reach that mark.
Like Marshall's Donnie Jones, San Diego's Bill Grier is in his second season as a Division I head coach after he became the 11th coach in USD program history. Grier led the Toreros to heights never before reached when he guided USD to an upset victory over No. 4 seed Connecticut in the 2008 NCAA Tournament's First Round - making the Torero men the first San Diego Division I team to win an NCAA Tournament contest.
USD earned a berth in the NCAA's with a victory over Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference Tournament finals.
Marshall went 5-2 in December for its first five-win final month of the year since 2001 (5-1). Over the last five Decembers, Marshall owns a record of 16-15 (.516).
The game will be video-streamed live and free of charge on Toreros All-Access, via USDToreros.com. The contest can also be heard on the Thundering Herd/ISP Sports Network with Steve Cotton (PxP) and Woody Woodrum (color).