Nov. 8, 2013
Postgame Press Conference
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Scott-free deal wasn't working at all in the Marshall women's basketball opener.
The 2013-14 season seemed to be getting off to a rocky start for Friday afternoon for the Thundering Herd, when Leah Scott did what she did last season at Iowa Western Community College.
She came off the bench. She scored. She starred ... and the Herd went on to roll to a 63-41 over visiting Bluefield (Va.) before a Henderson Center school kid-fueled crowd of 3,213.
In her Marshall debut, Scott, a National Junior College All-America second team choice last season despite being a sixth man for Iowa Western, picked up two fouls in a 2:30 span and Coach Matt Daniel sat her for the final 15:17 of the half.
Meanwhile, her teammates continued to struggle offensively on past halftime, and with 13:26 to play the Rams led 33-32. Scott was back on the floor by then, but her impact hadn't been quite felt ... yet.
Scott hit a layup to give the Herd the lead - for good, it turned out - and after point guard Norrisha Victrum's 3-pointer from the left corner put Marshall up 37-33, Scott hoisted her club.
The 5-foot-10 junior from Detroit scored 12 straight Herd points in a span of 2:51, creating a 52-36 advantage.
"Leah is a good player, and I'm a better coach when she's on the floor," Daniel said. "We're happy to have her."
She finished with a game-high 19 points after scoring only a free throw in four minutes with those two first-half fouls.
"Coming off the bench like that, it did feel like it was back in JUCO again," said Scott, who previously played Division I ball over 26 minutes in three games for Central Michigan in the fall of 2011. "I rarely get two back-to-back fouls like that and I went to the bench and I was frustrated.
"When I got the chance to come back out after the half, I felt an urge to help my team. We were struggling offensively. I feel like we were a little nervous. (Bluefield) was a lot better than Kentucky Christian (the Herd's 49-point exhibition victim of four days earlier) so I think we still were thinking about how that went.
"We did tighten up on our defense in the second half. Our offense was there against Kentucky Christian. Today, our defense was there, but our offense needed to be a lot better."
Scott said the chanting and cheering school children in the stands helped welcome the Herd.
"I wish all of our games were like that," Scott said. "I love little kids. And I love playing basketball."
Besides Scott's 6-of-8 afternoon, the rest of the Herd was a combined 14-for-54 (.259 percentage). And although Marshall had more depth and size than the Rams, the Herd struggled to score despite getting plenty of good shots.
The Herd also went to the foul line 33 times, but made only 16.
"It wasn't very much fun in the first half," Daniel said of his second-season's debut. "I think across the country there is going to be serious shock and adjustment, due to the new (officiating) rules. I'm glad the game worked out the way it did.
"I think our kids were ramped up, because of the field trip day. The only thing I think we could've done better is finish some plays and make free throws. We held them to 23 points in the first half and 18 in the second, and that will win most nights. The margin extended, because we were a little bit better offensively in the second half."
Junior center Chukwuka Ezeigbo had a career-high 14 rebounds for the Herd, and senior Suporia Dickens scored seven of her 10 points in the final half. She also had eight rebounds. Freshman guard McKenzie Akers made a trio of threes for nine points.
Asia Wheeler's double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds paced Bluefield (1-2).
The Herd goes to Coraopolis, Pa., to visit Robert Morris for a 10 a.m. tipoff Tuesday, then returns home for seven straight games, and 10 in a row in the state. The only date outside the Henderson Center in that span is a 1 p.m. Capital Classic tipoff on Dec. 14 against West Virginia at the Charleston Civic Center.
Daniel played 10 players in the game's first eight minutes and half of those were making their Marshall debuts. After a 9-21 season last season, the rebuilding is going to bring a struggle some outings, as it did in the opener.
"We're inexperienced; it's going to be a grind," said Daniel, who started his sixth season as a head coach with the victory. "I don't know how many wins we're going to have, but this is my favorite team that I've ever coached.
"I like this group. I think we need to do a better job of preparing them and that is not just our player personnel. I think that's also on our coaching staff."