BOGACZYK: Daniel's Herd Rolls Toward C-USA Play
The Word on the Herd-Dec. 29, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - In the first half Monday night at the Henderson Center, Marshall shot only 32 percent. In the second half, Coach Matt Daniel's Herd had 12 of its 18 turnovers.
But the third season of MU women's basketball for Daniel is different than the two previous winters. There was no panic, no fluster when Robert Morris cut into a double-digit Herd lead on multiple occasions.
"It's maturity," Marshall senior forward Leah Scott said.
"It's focus," said Herd junior point guard Norrisha Victrum.
In a 62-46 victory over the visiting Colonials, Daniel got his 100th career victory and received plenty of contributions as he has from a veteran team that's 8-3 heading into Conference USA play.
Senior Aja Sorrells had 16 rebounds, the most for a Marshall player in almost two seasons. The 5-foot-9 Sorrells entered the game averaging 4.8 boards.
"I've never had 16 rebounds, anywhere, ever," Sorrells said.
Victrum's nine assists were the most for a Herd player since Alaya Mitchell had nine at Morehead State in a November 2011 victory, and the most for Marshall at "The Cam" since Lateidra Elliott had 10 in a March 3, 2011 win over Southern Miss.
The junior's distribution effort supported a 19-point night by Scott and the 14-point, 9-rebound effort by senior post player Chukwuka Ezeigbo.
"Everybody has something to bring to the table," Victrum said. "Whether it's rebounding, distributing the ball or bringing energy off the bench. It doesn't have to be all about scoring all of the time.
"We need everybody, on the floor, off the bench. Points are important, but we need everybody to dish out something different for us to play the way we can play."
Robert Morris (2-9) was the Northeast Conference preseason favorite, but the Colonials have struggled, and three of their losses have come in overtime. This was their seventh straight loss, and the Herd `s defense contributed mightily.
With Victrum's lead when the Herd was in man defense, Marshall took away RMC's top scorer, Anna Niki Stamolamprou, who entered the game averaging 17.1 points. Victrum was giving up 4 inches to the 5-9 sophomore, who didn't score a basket in the game's first 29 minutes. She finished with a team-high 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting.
The Herd also defended post-entry passes very well, and the Colonials were left to take 28 of their 56 field goal attempts behind the arc - making only six. RMC's .296 shooting percentage was the low for a Marshall Division I foe this season. Eight of MU's 11 foes have shot .361 or worse.
Marshall entered the game at No. 97 in the Ratings Percentage Index, but stakes increase significantly starting here Sunday, when Western Kentucky (11-2) visits the Henderson Center for a 1 p.m. tipoff to open the Herd's 18-game C-USA regular season.
Daniel doesn't have to remind the Herd that it was picked to finish 14th - last - in the C-USA preseason coaches' poll. His players have used that as a non-conference fuel, too.
"I think I'm trying to box out better, moving, looking for the ball more and just trying to help my team win," Sorrells said of her big board night. "Energy like that will help the team. But at the end of the day, it's about defense. That's how you win games.
"The difference between now and last year when we went into conference (play) is last year were just kind of all over the place, didn't have any chemistry. This year, we're just getting stronger and our chemistry is way better than a year ago.
"We're comfortable on the floor with one another. It's just everybody fitting into roles we understand now."
Marshall won the rebound battle, 40-34, and besides his team's defense, Daniel liked the 17-of-22 at the foul stripe, too, and a late 14-1 run in a span of 4:13 ballooned the lead to 52-35 on Victrum's 3-pointer with 4:23 to go.
Victrum and Sorrells combined for only three field goals, but their other contributions are the kind Daniel's suddenly veteran team - four senior starters (including junior-college transfers Sorrells, Scott and AJ Johnson) and third-year playmaker Victrum.
"The difference, it's our mentality. It's maturity," Victrum said. "Everybody just wants to improve. People have been in the gym on their own; nobody has to force anybody to do anything.
"It's getting to know one another. Last year, we had 10 new players, so it was kind of like a growing year for us. We go with the game plan. We listen to Coach Daniel, do everything we do to win. I think that comes with us being very focused.
"Coach can throw something out there and we can transform into what he wants us to do, different ways he wants us to guard ball screens, or play different zones, or man. It's all about being focused and into the game. Last year we didn't have that. He'd call something and three different people would be doing three different things.
"We're all on the same page now."