Jan. 10, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – It was no coincidence that Marshall’s rebound from basketball bad times was accompanied by something more than the Thundering Herd’s accustomed advantage on the boards.
Let’s just say Kane was able.
The Herd’s offense purred as it hasn’t since a Thanksgiving weekend win over Nevada, and Marshall coasted in its Conference USA opener with a 79-61 triumph over Tulsa at the Henderson Center.
Junior DeAndre Kane was back at the starting point guard spot for Coach Tom Herrion’s club, and it paid dividends mightily. Meanwhile, Tulsa had on its bench what it really needed – size, but it was in a 6-foot-10 rookie Coach Danny Manning, one of the great players in college hoops history.
The Golden Hurricane (9-7, 1-1) played no one taller than 6-7. Marshall’s starting five averaged that height … and the rebound difference was 47-32, led by Dennis Tinnon’s 11, leaving him one shy of 500 in his two Marshall seasons.
Kane’s 6-for-9 shooting night – “It’s about time I knocked some down,” he said – was his best in the Pittsburgh native’s 80 games in a Marshall uniform. He’d shot only as well as .667 one other time, but it was only 4-of-6 in a February 2011 win at East Carolina.
It wasn’t Kane’s marksmanship on a 16-point night that made the biggest difference for the Herd (8-8, 1-0), however. He had seven assists in his most important line, and he sat out the final 10:23 as the rout was on early.
“My job is to lead, to run things, to get my guys involved,” said Kane, who continues to play with a brace on his right (shooting) hand, which has a fracture suffered about a month ago. “I know sometimes I can get my shot, get in whenever, but I want to get Elijah (Pittman) and D.D. Scarver going, get it inside to Dennis.
“You get them touches, get Nigel (Spikes) and Rob (Goff) some easy points down low, on rebounds, it opens up shots for me, for all of us. They were backing off me because they didn’t think I was going to shoot it.
“It was like, ‘He’s not going to shoot it; he’s not going to shoot it.’ and I was dishing and moving it and it really opened up things for me. You get everybody touches, it makes everybody happy. Guys are happy when they’re getting good looks and knocking down shots. And if we miss and they’ve gotten touches, they’re going to go get the ball off the glass.”
The Herd had lost three straight and four of five to close non-league play, most recently falling at home to MEAC member Delaware State and by 37 at rival Ohio.
Asked if – considering the circumstances – it may have been the most crucial game for Marshall in his three years in the program, Kane didn’t hesitate with his response.
“You could say that,” said Kane, who passed Tirrell Baines, Jim Davidson and Shaquille Johnson on the MU career scoring list and is No. 27 at 1,245 points. “We were on a bad drought, real bad. It was our opening conference game, a new season.”
Kane said it “was important we set the tone early, especially the first five minutes were crucial for us, we talked about that,” and the Herd led 19-6 after nine minutes and already had an 18-4 bulge on the glass.
“We shot the ball really well,” Kane said, “but our offense was really good, the way we ran it.”
After nine games in which the Herd shot a combined .365, Herrion’s team hit 45 percent, a number that tumbled in the final eight minutes when the backups made only four of the team’s final 13 shots. Pittman’s 19 points led all scorers and Scarver matched Kane’s 16. The Herd’s 12 3-point goals matched a season high, too.
“At times we’ve had some problems with (shot selection), but tonight there’s no coincidence in my opinion with DeAndre getting his legs back again … and he’s got the ability to get guys the ball in the right spot at the right time,” Herrion said. “When you’re a shooter or a scorer, you’ve got to get the ball in rhythm, and we want our shooters to shoot open shots.
“We have good enough shooters. We got to transition, and it started with our defense and our rebounding. We were able to open up the floor. I thought we really hurt them in transition early whether it was attacking the rim or spotting up and making some shots which led to better defense.”
A 43-20 halftime advantage was the Herd’s largest since a 45-22 home lead over Binghamton in December 2010. It was MU’s biggest halftime advantage in seven seasons and one game of C-USA play, and the 43 halftime points were the most for a Herd team since a 48-28 bulge over WVU Tech in December of last season.
The win also saw the Herd return to the floor of 7-2 Yous Mbao, who was seriously injured in a practice collision with Goff in a rebounding drill on Nov. 20. The junior played three minutes after missing 11 games.
“We wanted to get out on the break,” Kane said. “Their transition defense wasn’t that great. We worked the ball well for good shots. We got it down the floor and then ran the offense. Everybody was involved.”
The Herd was so efficient when it got shots, its 20 turnovers were hardly a factor. Meanwhile, Tulsa was doomed after it went 14 straight empty possessions over 8:21 in the first half, contributing to a 19-0 MU run and a 24-6 lead.
Kane missed four games due to injury and returned for 20 tough minutes in the loss at Ohio, where he fouled out with 6 points and 8 rebounds and struggled handling the ball with his bad hand. And after shooting 33-of-78 (.423) in the Herd’s first five games, he’d been only 25-of-86 (.291) in his last six before he found the mark against Manning and Co.
His continued recovery is crucial as Marshall goes to UTEP (7-6, 1-0) on Saturday night. The Miners opened league play Wednesday night with a 66-57 triumph at Tulane. Then, the Herd gets a week off before East Carolina (9-5, 0-1) visits the Henderson Center on Jan. 19.
“The hand is OK,” Kane said. “It’s getting there, I’d say 80-85 percent. Another week or so I’ll take the cast off for good. It hurt me a lot less tonight. I was just getting used to it last time (at Ohio) and I couldn’t dribble with it well enough. I handled it a lot better, getting used to it.
“We go to UTEP and then that week off will help a lot. The next home game is here (ECU), that Saturday, I probably won’t have (the brace) on there then, and we’ll be good to go.”