Feb. 22, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Playing in a conference that has been dominated for years by a team from a city where Elvis is doing the ultimate sleep-over, maybe Marshall Men’s Basketball is going to play the rest of the season to one of the hit tunes by “The King.”
It’s now or never.
“There is a sense of urgency, definitely,” senior forward Dennis Tinnon said Thursday, a couple of hours after he and the rest of the Thundering Herd had returned from their first road win of the season, 82-70, at UCF. “We have to win now, and we really wanted a road win. We hadn’t won one and I think that gave us a lot of energy.”
Marshall (12-15, 5-7) hopes to remember how it beat the Knights for a second time this season when UAB (12-14, 4-7) visits the Henderson Center on Saturday night. The Herd is down to four regular-season games before the Conference USA Tournament.
That 11-team dustup at the BOK Center in Tulsa – minus NCAA-sanctioned UCF – is likely a place where few, if any, foes want to run into a rekindled Herd.
After UAB’s visit, the Herd is off for a week until a March 2 trip to Houston. Then, second-place Southern Miss comes to “The Cam” on March 5 before MU goes to East Carolina to wrap the regular season on March 9.
“We’ve worked so hard,” said Tinnon, who had his 20th double-double in his two-year Herd career with 14 points and 15 rebounds at UCF. “We really wanted it. Everyone was focused. We were due for one.
“We knew we had to get stops, and when you do that, it turns into transition offense and everything. I think we made a lot of extra passes, so guys got opportunities to get open shots. There wasn’t anything like guys forcing it. That helped us out a whole lot, too.”
Tinnon’s 15 rebounds brought him to 602 for his Herd career, the 23rd player in school history to eclipse 600 boards.
What helped the Herd a lot was its ability to build a double-digit lead in the final 10 minutes of the first half, when the Herd shot 60 percent. Good starts have fueled the Herd in their successes this season. A 21-turnover game went well because of a 42-32 rebound dominance and getting good shots, with 48 points in the paint.
Asked if this is the best the Herd has felt about itself as a team since Thanksgiving – before Marshall lost its rebounding and defensive mojo, and Tinnon nodded in the affirmative.
“Oh, boy, I guess you could say that, because that’s when we were winning,” said the Green Bay, Wis. native. “Back then we were playing some smaller (low major) teams, but with the type of team we have, winning shouldn’t be the problem it has been.
“We have a lot of talent. What has happened is crazy, but, this one, we really wanted it and played like it.’
Tinnon said the performance in the UCF and the Herd’s one-point loss last month at league-leading and streaking Memphis were “pretty much a tie” as far as best performances since Christmas.
“We just wanted to win this one,” he said. ‘I don’t want to make it seem like we don’t want to win other times, but this time it was ,’We’ve got to get this,’ and we’re not going to settle until we do.
“Memphis, it was right there the whole (tight) game. UCF, we got ahead on ‘em, got into transition, had had the opportunity to get rebounds and go. A lot of teams, a lot of times where we don’t win is where we’re taking the ball out of the net and you can’t run it down somebody’s throat.
“At UCF, we had a lot of opportunities to rebound and do that.’
The 6-foot-8 senior started the game on the bench – a coach’s decision – but Tinnon said after sitting for a few minutes, “I wasn’t going to let it affect me or the team. I waited my turn, cheered everybody on, and once my time came to go in, go play.”
He said if the Herd seems desperate now – it lost 75-61 at UAB two weeks ago – the time is right.
“We have to look at it like, ‘If we lose a game, we’re done,’” Tinnon said. “We have to keep approaching things like we did earlier this week and at UCF.
“I’m pretty much sure, if we had lost that one, we were probably going to be done. We have to play with a sense of urgency. Get focused. Stay focused. Do some damage to UAB.”
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Tinnon is the sixth player in Herd history to have at least 600 rebounds in two seasons. With 602 and games to play, he has a chance to become the No. 2 rebounder for Marshall over two seasons.
No. 1 is the uncatchable Charlie Slack, the 6-5 star of the ‘50s who earlier this season was called “the best rebounder I ever saw,” by SMU Coach Larry Brown. Slack had 1,058 rebounds in his junior and senior seasons (1954-55 and ’55-56), en route to his school record 1,916.
No matter which two of Slack’s four seasons you choose to add, he had at least 858 in two years (freshman and sophomore).
In the early ‘60s, Bob Burgess had 668 in his sophomore and junior seasons combined (617 as a junior and senior). Randy Noll had 667 in his two MU seasons (1971-72 and ’72-73) after transferring from Kentucky.
J.R. VanHoose grabbed 618 rebounds in his last two Marshall seasons of 2000-01 and ’01-02, while the great Hal Greer finished his Herd days with 612 over his final two seasons before going on to NBA stardom and induction to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
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The UAB game at the Henderson Center is big for a Herd for another reason – the C-USA tiebreaker. A Blazers’ win would give UAB a sweep over Marshall and the head-to-head tiebreaker edge between teams that right now are only a half-game apart in the standings.
For C-USA Tournament purposes, Marshall would today get the No. 7 seed and play a first-round game against No. 10 SMU. However, the Herd (5-7) is only one game away from getting into the discussion for one of the five byes in the bracket.
With UCF sidelined, five teams get byes, with a 4-5 game in the quarterfinals as usual. With only 11 teams in the field, there are only three first-round games (Nos. 6-11, 7-10, 8-9) on March 13, but no 5 versus 12 game.
Although it would alleviate an advancing Marshall team from playing a potential four games in four days by landing at seeds 4 or 5 and skipping a first-rounder, that game puts the winner likely into a semifinal against nationally ranked Memphis.
Those hoping for a Herd-Memphis final need Herrion’s team to land any of these potential seeds – 3, 6, 7, 10, 11. The Tigers can already clinch the No. 1 seed with a home win Saturday over second-place Southern Miss, which also already has secured one of the five byes.