March 13, 2009
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Thundering Herd wrapped up the 2008-09 season cementing its place as one of the elite programs in Conference USA. With a 17-15 record, the team clinched its sixth-straight non-losing season, the longest active streak in the league. It also tied the top streak in program history, which started over 20 seasons ago.
Marshall has carried its regular season momentum into the postseason, enjoying unprecedented postseason success in its last two tournament trips. The Herd is one of just two teams to win two games in each of the last two Conference USA Championships and is the only squad in the league to have defeated a three seed or higher in each of its last two trips to the tournament.
Success in the clutch has also been prevalent as the Herd. Just three games have advanced to overtime in the previous two tournaments. Marshall has played in two of those games, winning each time. In 2008, Marshall got a late shot from Kizzy Hart to top #3 seed UAB and just a year later, it was Chantelle Handy's turn, as a shot with three seconds remaining pushed Marshall past No. 2 seed UTEP.
Record-setting performances were also prevalent for the Herd in its tournament run. The opening game against Memphis set a conference record with its performance from the free throw line. For the second time in 2008-09, and ironically, the second time against Memphis, the Herd was perfect from the strip, hitting all 18 shots. It marked the first perfect showing from the charity stripe in tournament history and the 11th time in conference history.
Tynikki Crook was a perfect 8-for-8 from the line en route to a 13-point, 10-rebound effort that marked the fourth consecutive postseason double-double that she posted. Her streak would eventually mark six games, a record to start off her career.
Things will only go up from here for a team that returns all but one player next season. The numbers coming back are staggering. Of its 2008-09 numbers, 87% of its scoring returns, 86% of the minutes played comes back, 89% of the teams rebounding will return while 96% of the blocked shots from 2008-09 look to be back next season for a run to the NCAA Tournament.
Four out of five starters return, led by seniors Chantelle Handy and Alyssa Hammond. Handy has seen improvement from year-to-year since she started playing at the collegiate level and her junior season was her best effort yet. After scoring in double figures nine times in her first two seasons, Handy hit ten points or more on 19 different occasions last year, including a career-high 25 points against East Carolina.
She saved her best work for the latter part of the year, reaching double figures in seven out of the last eight games, including all three games of the tournament. One of her top efforts of the season was a 14-point, 11-rebound performance in Marshall's win at SMU, the first triumph for the Herd over the Mustangs and the only home conference loss suffered by the Mustangs all year.
Handy was the hero in Marshall's 72-70 overtime win in the second round against UTEP, hitting a long jumper with the seconds winding down to send MU to the semifinals for the second consecutive year. She finished with 15 points against the Miners.
Alyssa Hammond is also set for her senior season. She is another player who has continued to improve in her time at Marshall. For the second consecutive year, Hammond finished the year averaging in double figures with 10.3 PPG, a career best. She recorded two 20-point performances in her junior year, led by a career-high 25 points at UCF. In Marshall's home win over Memphis, Hammond notched the first double-double of her career, scoring 16 points and grabbing a career-high 11 boards.
Joining Crook and Hammond is Tynikki Crook, who grew by leaps and bounds between her freshman and sophomore seasons. Crook wrapped up her freshman season with double-doubles in all three C-USA Tournament games in 2008 and that success carried over into her sophomore season.
In her freshman season, her top scoring output was 16 points. She matched or surpassed that 11 times as a sophomore, reaching 20 points on seven occasions. Crook put up a career best 24 points twice, with the first coming in the Capital Classic game against West Virginia. She matched that total in Marshall's tournament opener against Memphis.
Crook picked up right where she left off in postseason action, notching a double-double in the Herd's three C-USA Tournament games in 2009 to make it six-straight. She was also named to the All-Tournament Team for the second consecutive season.
Three players return who each started at least ten games at the guard position, beginning with senior Alix Barnette. Barnette set career marks in almost every category in 2009. Through her sophomore season, Barnette started four contests, but found her way into the starting lineup 13 times as a junior. She averaged 7.1 PPG and 2.5 rebounds per game, both career bests.
Perhaps the most impressive stat with Barnette is her selectivity in the shots that she took late in her junior season. While her average number of shots that she took per minute actually went down, her shooting percentage and total scoring output went up greatly.
Sophomores Tania Walters and Rashedah Henriques also bring back great experience. Both played some of their best ball during the league tournament. After averaging 2.0 PPG in the regular season, Walters more than tripled her output in the championships, averaging an even 7.0 points in the three games. Just as impressive was her performance beyond the arc. She scored just two treys in the regular season before recording three against Memphis and UTEP in New Orleans.
Rashedah Henriques also gained a solid level of experience as a freshman. Henriques started 12 games, averaging 12.5 minutes. She scored a career-high 11 points against East Carolina while receiving 20 minutes or more of playing time on seven difference occasions.