BOGACZYK: Victrum, Johnson `Push' Herd to Victory


Norrisha Victrum

Norrisha Victrum

Dec. 19, 2013

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By JACK BOGACZYK

HERDZONE.COM COLUMNIST

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Well, maybe you could say Wofford was a “Victrum” of circumstances on Thursday afternoon at the Henderson Center.

Marshall sophomore point guard Norrisha Victrum played mostly out of position, but played perhaps the best game in coach Matt Daniel’s two seasons. And junior college playmaker AJ Johnson – who did play the point – was very good, too.

The result was a 71-56 victory for the Herd (4-5) over the Terriers (2-8), thanks to a 48-point, three-turnover Marshall second half and an impressive performance by the ball-handling duo.

Victrum, who despite being 5 feet 5 played most of the game at the bottom of a 2-3 zone, scored 24 points with eight assists and five rebounds. She was 12-of-14 at the free throw line, too, in 38 minutes.

Johnson scored 18 points – the high for the junior college newcomer in an MU uniform – and made 6-of-6 at the stripe.

The only bad news for the Herd came with 6:56 left in the first half, when senior wing Erica Woods limped off the floor after contact under the Herd basket. Daniel said she may have a left ankle fracture, with a final determination on the injury scheduled Thursday night.

Victrum took control of the game in the second half, and the Herd started to get on the glass and started beating the Terriers – who succeeded in the first half with a halfcourt game – down the floor.

The Herd sophomore from Columbia, S.C., showed some of the same kind of take-charge play in the first half of Saturday’s Capital Classic loss to West Virginia, when she scored 13 points in those first 20 minutes before a second-half blanking.

“Erica does most of the talking on the floor, guiding us, but when she got hurt I just felt like I had to step up,” Victrum said. “I played here last year, and Erica and I communicate a lot on the floor. As a point guard, I know how to speed it up.

“When I do that, it helps the team, even helps Coach Daniel. We’re quicker than them, so why not push it, we had an advantage. We talked about that at halftime. We’re much better, anyway, when we push the ball. We’re not good when we’re at a set pace. We play better at a fast pace.”

Victrum’s 24 points were the most for a Herd player in Daniel’s two seasons and the most for an MU player in three years and one day – or since post player Tynikki Crook scored 25 in a 71-67 home win over Cleveland State on Dec. 18, 2010.

Victrum’s eight assists also are a Herd high in Daniel’s two seasons. And until Thursday, no Herd player had made 12 free throws since Sikeetha Shepard-Hall hit 15 in February 2006 win over UAB.

Victrum and Johnson combined for 42 points on only 11 field goal attempts, hitting 6-of-7 three-pointers and 18-of-20 free throws with 10 assists, and only one turnover in 67 minutes.

“It can get fun,” Daniel said when asked about having two true point guards on the floor. “It can get fun when they share it and they drive it and they kick it. It’s hard to guard because we’ve got shooters all over the floor, but right now we’re just trying to survive, and we’ve got a quick turnaround.’

Delaware State (3-6) visits the Henderson Center for a noon tipoff Saturday, continuing the Herd’s home show that starts the season with 12 of the first 15 games in “The Cam.” Marshall figures to be without Woods, no matter her ankle’s prognosis, and also junior post player Chukwuka Ezeigbo, who is in Nigeria through the end of the month for her late father’s formal funeral and burial.

Wofford led 21-11 with six minutes to go in the first half, but the Herd whittled the deficit to 25-23 by the halftime break. It was a different game in the second half, and Marshall built from a 43-39 lead on Victrum’s 3 from the right wins with 11 minutes to play.

“The first half, they just had more energy than us,” Victrum said of the Southern Conference visitors. “They had more energy on their bench than ours, more energy on the floor than we did on the floor. They were denying passes. It wasn’t going our way at all.”

She helped change that by pushing the ball, and Marshall started taking the ball to the hoop rather than settling for 3-point attempts. Marshall shot 63 percent in the second half (12-of-19), and had 10 assists on those 12 buckets.

The 48 second-half points were a Herd high since Marshall scored 57 in the first half of a 93-55 triumph over Kent State to open the 2011-12 season. It was the high for a Herd second half since Dec. 30, 2010 when Marshall scored 49 in a 79-69 home win over Elon.

“I’m a point guard, so I’ve got to know what’s going on at all times, know everybody’s position,” Victrum said. “I played out of position today, played the bottom of a 2-3, never played that before. Sometimes I feel like I’m lost in there with the bigs, but I was here last year so I know what’s going on.

“The point guard, no matter where I am, should be like another coach out there. AJ, too. We have a good relationship. If she has the ball, I can run the two; if I have the ball she can run the two. We know both positions, so we’re not confused.”

The Herd also got 10 points and nine rebounds from freshman post player Chelsey Romero, and Marshall – which entered the game shooting only .585 percent from the free throw line – made 22-of-28 (.786).

Victrum’s court presence paid off big for Daniel’s team against the Terriers. And as the Herd plays on without Ezeigbo and Woods, the ability to the two Herd point guards to push tempo and create could matter even more for a young team.

“It’s kind of interesting,” Daniel said. “I’ve never had this kind of a weird season, without Cheeka (Ezeigbo) and now Erica, kids playing out of position … we’re just trying to survive. The kids stepped up and decided to compete in the second half.

‘They handled the storm that hit and played pretty good basketball in the second half, shared it pretty well. I’m really pleased with way we competed.”