Herrion Jacket a Sandy Hook Tribute before Herd Heads to Kentucky|
Dec. 20, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON - Tom Herrion didn't win the Masters. He just looked like it.
The Marshall basketball coach wore the green sport jacket in which he formally accepted the Thundering Herd job back in April 2010. What was most unusual, however, was the guy who normally discards his coat less than five minutes into a game went all 40 in it on Wednesday night.
It was Herrion's wardrobe statement during a 64-48 Henderson Center victory over Savannah State that mattered most. He said the game-long wearing o' the green was a tribute to the victims of the mass killings in a Connecticut grade school last Friday.
"Yep," Herrion said when asked about the green sportcoat and his decision to wear it throughout the win over the Tigers. "It's my way of paying tribute to Newtown, Conn., and Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"You all don't know. It's on Route (Interstate) 84. And I'd say easily 200 to 300 times, I've driven through that town, that area, recruiting when I was a young coach up in New England.
It was personal for Herrion, too.
"With a 6-year-old son (Robert), who's going to be 7 right after Christmas ... he's in the first grade. You know, I'm like any of you," said Herrion, a Massachusetts native, before re-gathering his emotions in the postgame media session. "I'm going to think about it this way ... Those kids, boys and girls, are the same ages as the kids who come to my camp.
"So, it was my way of paying tribute. Green is their color, at school (green and white are the official Sandy Hook school colors) ... Just a small way for me to pay homage to them after the senseless, ridiculous, despicable slaughtering of all the people last Friday."
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The Herd (7-5) heads to defending national champion Kentucky (7-3) on Saturday after what Herrion called his team's "as consistent a 40 minutes of defense we've played, two halves." The effort included limiting Savannah (5-7), which played a three-guard offense, to no 3-point field goals.
The visitors' 0-of-7 from behind the arc was the first time a Marshall foe failed to make a three since Dec. 29, 1991, when Penn State went 0-for-3 in a 78-64 win over the Herd in the consolation game of the Palm Beach (Fla.) Classic.
Savannah's .333 shooting percentage was the lowest against Marshall since the Herd limited Longwood to .298 in winning the season opener at the Henderson Center. Herrion's team, which has struggled at the free throw line throughout the season - made 17-of-23 at the stripe in the last 13:12 after starting 2-of-8.
Two-guard D.D. Scarver led the Herd with 18 points, while senior forward Dennis Tinnon rebounded from what he called "not very good at all the last couple of games (actually two of three, losses to West Virginia and Cincinnati wrapped around a win over Coppin State). Tinnon made his first six field goal attempts and finished with 14 points.
However, he had six of Marshall's 19 turnovers, a number Herrion called "too many ... a bad number, but this was an excellent win."
Asked about Kentucky in Rupp Arena up next, Herrion said, "Let's go get `em, let's go, let's go ...
"We know what's on our schedule and we've got great respect, defending national champions, in their house, on national TV (4 p.m., ESPN2)," the third-year Herd coach said. "We'll do everything in our power ... The kids will be prepared. It's a great opportunity.
"It's a great venue, one of the most historical buildings in college basketball history. And we're excited about the opportunity and the great challenge that lies ahead of us ... We've got to play strong, we've got to play well, you go on the road you've got to do everything better.
"We've been in some places now, and I've got great respect for John (Calipari, Kentucky coach). I've known him for a long time and what he's done there and their program. Went to Louisville a couple years ago, up at the half. Went to Syracuse last year. We've been some places now. We've got a couple Kentucky kids (Elijah Pittman, Tamron Manning) who have played in the building (in Kentucky Sweet Sixteen high school state tournaments) previously. So, that's why we scheduled it."
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When the Herd goes to Rupp Arena to meet UK on Saturday, it figures to play before one of the largest crowds to watch a Marshall game. After all, the two largest crowds in the history of Herd hoops were at Rupp (see chart below).
Some digging by "The Word on the Herd" shows six of the eight largest crowds to see Marshall hoops were at Kentucky or Louisville, including a 1995-96 neutral-site game against the Wildcats at the Cardinals' former home, Freedom Hall.
For years, the largest crowd to see MU play was on March 16, 1967 for a 1967 NIT semifinal loss to Marquette, at Madison Square Garden. Then, in December 1994, first-year Coach Billy Donovan's Herd played Kentucky before 23,782 at Rupp in a one-sided loss.
The largest attendance for a Marshall victory came two rounds earlier in that NIT - in which George Stone starred for the Herd, and future New York Knicks standout Walt Frazier was the MVP, for champion Southern Illinois.
On March 9, 1967, with 15,357 on hand, the Herd topped Villanova, 70-68 in overtime, in a first-round game at the Garden, back when the NIT had a 16-team field and the entire event was played there.
Here's a look at the largest crowds to see the Herd play, and the top attendance for Herd victories in history:
Largest crowds to see Marshall men's basketball (all crowds over 17,000 listed)
x-NABC Classic first round at Lexington, Ky.
Largest crowds to see a Marshall victory
a-NIT first round