Marshall Hosts Alabama State in Season Opener


Senior Shaquille Johnson and the Herd open the season against Alabama State on Friday.

Senior Shaquille Johnson and the Herd open the season against Alabama State on Friday.

Nov. 10, 2011

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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall will begin its 99th season of men's basketball on Friday at 7:30 p.m. as the Thundering Herd hosts Alabama State at the Cam Henderson Center.

The first-ever meeting with the Hornets is Marshall's first of eight opponents on the schedule that qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season.

The Herd is coming off a 65-55 win over Northern Kentucky in its only exhibition game of the season. Marshall shot 56 percent from the field in the second half to pull away after trailing 32-27 at halftime. Most of the Herd roster shared playing time and senior guard Shaquille Johnson led the team with 16 points. The game gave the eight Marshall newcomers valuable playing time. Junior transfer Dennis Tinnon recorded 11 points and 11 rebounds and freshman Justin Coleman scored 15 points in 25 minutes of play.

Marshall is 76-23 all-time in season openers and has won its last five. Last season, the Herd opened the season with a 92-69 win over West Virginia Tech in Tom Herrion's first game as the head coach at Marshall.

Herrion begins his second season returning four starters from last year's team that went 22-12 and reached the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. Four of the top six scorers return including senior guard Damier Pitts who averaged 16.2 points to lead the team last season. The Herd also returns the 2011 Conference USA Freshman of the Year in sophomore guard DeAndre Kane who is on the preseason all-conference first team. Guards Shaquille Johnson and Dago Pena join Pitts as the only seniors on the team.

Alabama State plays in its first game since a 70-61 loss to UT-San Antonio in the NCAA's First Four in Dayton, Ohio last season. The Hornets finished the season 17-18 and was fourth in the Southwestern Athletic Conference with a record of 11-7. However, ASU got hot towards the end of the season to win its second SWAC Tournament in the last three seasons.

The Hornets return six lettermen, including three starters, and welcome seven newcomers. ASU's three returning starters are all seniors in guards Jeff Middlebrooks and Tramaine Butler and forward Kenderek Washington. Forward Ivory White returns for his senior season after averaging 7.1 point and 5.4 rebounds per game as a second team all-SWAC performer as a junior.

The Hornets struggled on the road last season going 4-14 away from Montgomery, Ala. and losing all nine of their road non-conference games.

The game will be broadcast throughout the Thundering Herd Network affiliates. Live stats and video will be available at HerdZone.com. Fans can get live updates during the game via twitter by following @Herd_Zone.

Friday's game will proceed a women's basketball game between Marshall and Kent State at 5 p.m. Any men's basketball ticket holder can view the women's basketball game in the general admission section.