Jan. 3, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Just when it seemed Marshall’s basketball season couldn’t possibly become any more confounding, Delaware State came into the Henderson Center and proved otherwise.
Hornets Coach Greg Jackson walked into the postgame media session Wednesday night and wished everyone “Happy New Year.” Marshall Coach Tom Herrion wished he weren’t there, really.
Delaware State, milking clock and the Thundering Herd’s defensive patience, stunned Marshall 53-51, holding off the Herd after building a 12-point lead early in the second half.
A turn of the calendar and several days of two-a-day practices didn’t seem to make much difference for Herrion’s team (7-7).
“We’re so inefficient on offense, inept really, that I clearly don’t have enough adjectives to describe it,” Herrion said.
The Herd shot 36.2 percent, continuing a trend of woeful marksmanship that has now stretched over the last eight games, as MU travels Saturday to rival Ohio (8-5), which has lost five of its last seven after a 6-0 start.
Marshall had 13 of its 15 turnovers in the first 29 minutes. DSU (6-8) finished with 10 steals. And once again, the Herd struggled at the free throw stripe, missing its first seven before making 10 of its last 12 – but the 10 misses (13-of-23), Herrion noted, were very costly.
“It’s unheard of,” said Herd senior Dennis Tinnon of losing to the Hornets, after his double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds.
.“It really stinks to lose,” Tinnon said. “We didn’t expect to lose this one, just like the other ones. I think that we don’t take it serious enough, like you get to a point where you get mad, got say you’re sick of losing. I know I am … It’s ridiculous.”
The Herd could have gotten the message very early on what kind of game it would need to play. On five of Delaware State’s first six possessions, the Hornets ran the shot clock down to 7, 6, 7, 10 and 9 seconds … and built a 12-6 lead.
Marshall spent the game playing catch-up. The Herd didn’t get a lead until Elijah Pittman (he scored a game-high 17 points) hit a pair of free throws for a 43-41 edge with 3:02 left. Herrion’s team found itself down 31-19 at the first media timeout of the second half (15:54), having scored on only 8 of 31 possessions to that point.
“We clearly have to come to grips with who we are,” Herrion said of his team’s offensive struggles, with C-USA play starting next Wednesday with a Henderson Center date against Tulsa. “We are so inefficient on offense, night in, night out.”
A 17-point first half was the Herd’s fewest points in an opening half since the same number exactly four years ago (Jan. 2, 2009), in an 80-70 loss at San Diego.
Here’s how the Herd has gotten to a point that Herrion says continues “to befuddle me.”
Through the first six games of the season, MU was averaging 82.5 points per game and shooting a .479 field goal percentage. In the last eight games (starting with a home win over Morehead State), the Herd is averaging only 60.5 points and shooting .367.
Marshall also has averaged nearly 17 turnovers per game in the last eight outings and is minus-29 in turnover margin in those games. For the season, the free throw percentage is .578.
It’s obvious the Herd really needs the return soon of star junior guard DeAndre Kane, whose right hand is no longer is in a cast. However, his absence on this night was trumped by personnel issues for DSU, which played without scoring leader Tajh Tate (15.7 ppg) and 6-foot-10 Kendall Gray, who ranks among the top 10 nationally in blocked shots.
Jackson called those absences disciplinary matters. His team changed defenses throughout and ran shot clock at will. The Herd’s defense was good enough; the offense was much the same MU has displayed in the last month.
“I thought our kids that came in and played tonight … attention to detail was very important,” the DSU coach said. “We knew that we could get this team in a halfcourt set and keep them from playing in a straight line, we had a great chance of winning this basketball game … Shortening the length of the game, long possessions and have (the Herd) play at angles, instead of a straight line.”