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MCGILL: Herd Hoops Has Plan to Score More

Marshall men's basketball coach Dan D'Antoni (left).
Oct. 17, 2016

By Chuck McGill

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Dan D’Antoni’s basketball philosophy is basically a lesson in spelling his last name: The D has to come before the O.

“Great defense scores,” said D’Antoni, the Marshall men’s basketball coach. “The whole idea is that you are playing hard defense to create scores on the other end, and the better defensively we get, the more we’ll score.

“I think our offense can score around 80 points because we play a fast-paced game, but in order to take it to another level it’s got to come from the defensive end.”

The Herd, picked fourth in the Conference USA preseason poll, is in its third season under D’Antoni. Last season, the program set school records for points (2,838), 3-pointers (332) and 3-pointers attempted (985). Marshall led Conference USA in scoring during league games, with 92.0 points per game, and finished third nationally in scoring (86.0).

The overall scoring number also ranked first in C-USA, but the scoring defense ranked last among 14 teams (84.9 points per game). The latter has been D’Antoni’s focus this offseason and through preseason practice.



“We can’t score any more points offensively than we did,” D’Antoni said. “We can score more points, but it’s got to come from our defensive end. We have to create better defensive plays in order to create a faster score on the other end.

“Good defense is when you stop the other team. Great defense is when it creates a score on the other end. We want to play great defense.”

There is a perception that the D’Antoni coaches – Dan’s brother, Mike, is the head coach of the Houston Rockets – have a score-first, defense-second mentality. That is a misnomer, according to D’Antoni. If Marshall wins – the Herd won 12 C-USA games last season, the most since the program joined the league in 2005 – it is because D’Antoni’s team had the better defense.

The numbers show it, too. Last season’s team was 11-5 when scoring 90 or more points, but 9-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 80 points. There is a stronger correlation between points allowed and winning than points scored and winning.

“We’ve concentrated on defense,” D’Antoni said. “We’ve done a lot of drills. (Assistant coach) Scott Rigot is leading a lot of those drills that we think will increase the pressure we can put on the ball and give us the opportunity to get steals.

“We’re getting in position a lot better,” D’Antoni added. “Last year we’d get there but we wouldn’t react out of there. You’ve got to get to your position and then you’ve got to play; you’ve got to read what’s going on. I think they’re doing a better job of that. They’re starting to get their hands on the ball.”

Marshall must overcome the departure of James Kelly, the team’s leading scorer at 20.1 points per game. But after Kelly, the next six top scorers return, headlined by junior guard Jon Elmore and senior forward Ryan Taylor. That player retention has helped D’Antoni and his coaching staff push for more defensive improvement and, believe it or not, play an even more frenetic pace than the Herd came to be known for in 2015-16.

“We want to create a faster tempo offensively and defensively,” D’Antoni said. “We’re trying to create more … organized chaos. That’s how we play.

“We have a pattern, but that pattern comes at you so fast and so quick it creates chaos on the other side … it’s an organized game. But it looks chaotic.”