Dec. 23, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
LEXINGTON, Ky.–Coach Tom Herrion’s charges will have to dig deep to make 2013 a Happy New Year after 2012 ended with a less-than-desirable 7-6 mark.
So said some of the Herd on Saturday as it finished the 2012 portion of the ‘12-13 season with an 82-54 loss at Kentucky, with a 10-day holiday break on the horizon.
“They just killed us,” said Herd junior forward Elijah Pittman, whose homecoming of sorts to an arena where he played in three Kentucky Sweet Sixteen state tournaments included an MU-leading 20 points.
“We learned,” said Herd senior forward Dennis Tinnon, “that you’ve got to take care of the ball, and if you don’t against a good team, you’re definitely going to get blown out like we did tonight.”
Herrion’s team will re-gather on Dec. 27 to begin preparations for a Jan. 2 Henderson Center date against Delaware State, a Jan. 5 visit to Ohio, and then Conference USA play.
UK Coach John Calipari said he was happy the Wildcats (8-3) could face a “very physical, bump-and-grind team that we outrebounded (48-43), and they were big. That's what we needed … We needed a team that would play that way.
“Marshall is going to do fine. Their guard (junior point guard DeAndre Kane) being hurt really affects them, but they're going to be fine. They get into Conference USA, and they're going to be one of those teams playing for that NCAA bid. No question in my mind.”
Herrion echoed Calipari’s sentiment.
“I’m really disappointed in our second half,” Herrion said. “We gave up too many easy baskets and layups. We need to defend and rebound and be a little tougher over 40 minutes against a team like Kentucky. Obviously, it’s a lousy way for us to go into the break, but we will come out of it and bounce back.”
Before the largest crowd to watch a Marshall game in the program’s 100-season history – 24,271 at Rupp Arena – Marshall struggled inside – a 52-20 deficit in points in the paint, and the Wildcats turned 17 turnovers into 26 points. UK point guard Ryan Harrow knifed through the Herd for 10 baskets and a game-high 23 points.
“We can’t have so many turnovers, playing a good team like UK,” said Tinnon, who finished 14 points. “No team in the world can account for those turnovers. No team can guard that.
“You cough that ball up, they get a deflection, they’re running the other way. There’s no team in the country that can guard that. We just gave up a lot of points, easy points for them. But it’s mostly us.”
Things unraveled twice for the Herd.
With a 20-18 first-half lead after eight-plus minutes, Marshall went the next 17 possessions with only one field goal – a Robert Goff jumper -- to trail 31-22.
Then, after MU cut a nine-point Kentucky lead to 33-31 with seven straight points to pen the second half, Herrion’s team went 6:17 without a field goal and was outscored 26-5 in a span of 7:33 for a 59-36 UK bulge.
“It’s a 40-minute ballgame,” said Pittman, who played 11 Sweet Sixteen games on the Rupp floor for Covington Holmes High. “You can’t come in, especially against a good team in their place, and play 19, 20 minutes.
“We’ve got to start coming in and play 40 minutes of basketball no matter who we’re playing.”
Asked whether UK did anything that surprised him or the Herd, Pittman said, “Nothing. It was our turnovers, our execution. We work so hard on that in practice, but then we get into a game and don’t do it … We got lackadaisical with the ball, and then instead of getting back and playing defense, we let them convert … time and time again. They killed us.”
Center Nigel Spikes finished with a game-best 16 rebounds, tying the Herd single-game season high (Tinnon, 16 versus Morehead State). He wasn’t happy about it, however.
“They did what they do,” Spikes said of UK. “They rebound the ball, they play really hard, but, I feel like we had the game at one point. We just didn’t do the things we needed to do to keep the game.
“It got out of hand, and you see what happens. They’re a well-coached team and you slip up once or twice, they’re going to hit you with that blow and it’s going to knock you out.
The Herd’s offensive inefficiency was exacerbated again, too, because it failed to shoot at least 60 percent from the free throw line (14-of-26) for the sixth time in 13 games.
“Our offensive efficiency is absolutely destroying us,” Herrion said, “because it puts too much pressure on our defense.”
Kane missed his third game with a right hand injury, and with one of the nation’s top assist men out of the lineup, the Herd’s offensive flow and ball-sharing has been diminished. His 15 points per game are missed, too.
Kane is expected back perhaps by the Jan. 9 start of league play against Tulsa, but his teammates say his absence is no excuse.
“We missed Kane a lot in this game,” Pittman said. “His knowledge, his toughness, his experience, his ability to do things others can’t. I hope he gets better soon. But other people have to step up. This is their opportunity.”
Spikes said the junior guard “is a very big player and we really miss him, but you lose a player, somebody’s got to step up. That’s part of the game.
“Being 7-6, it’s really disappointing,” the 6-foot-10 Spikes said. “here are a lot of games we shouldn’t have lost, and hopefully we learn from this and come back over the break and do the things we need to do to get back on track and try to win.
“We have a really good team. We’re just not putting the pieces of the puzzle together right now.”
Tinnon offered a challenge of sorts to his younger teammates.
“It’s tremendously disappointing,” he said. “I can’t even explain how I feel right now. I’m not feeling well at all being 7-6 and we’ve got to put this behind us and try to move forward.
“For me, I’m going to be in the gym as soon as I get back home. I’m going to continue to stay in the gym. I hope that everybody else who’s going home and taking a break, I hope they realize there is something they need to work on to make us a better team.
“I just hope they do something. I know that I’m going to be in the gym. We’ve got to get better starting now.”