June 26, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – After two seasons of constructing a program, Marshall women’s basketball Coach Matt Daniel hopes his Herd is ready to take some big steps forward this season.
Daniel’s first two Marshall teams had only five seniors combined and won 9 and 11 games. The 2014-15 team will have five seniors and three juniors on what is currently a 13-player roster. Only three players remain from Daniel’s MU debut season.
“I feel like we’re getting there,” Daniel said when asked about progress in the program. “We just last week distributed job responsibilities (to the staff) for the first time since I’ve been here. That’s because now I know who’s going to be in place staff-wise, figured out the terrain of how to get things done. We’re trying to play on maximizing strengths to get things done – in recruiting, solving problems, locally and on campus, trying to fix a program.”
Daniel also likes his 2014-15 schedule, which will include an increase from 16 to 18 Conference USA dates, and a move in league play from a Wednesday-Saturday game format to Thursday-Saturday – which is what the C-USA men played last season and will continue to play.
The Herd has 11 non-conference dates, and while only four of those are Cam Henderson Center home games, five of those are the start of home-and-home contracts to have games returned to the Herd’s “House of Higher Hoops” in 2015-16.
“I think it’s a good, competitive schedule for us,” Daniel said. “We have five true road games, four home and two neutral sites. We’re playing back-to-back days to start the season and then take a trip just like one of our conference trips, over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.”
The Herd is waiting for the return of a couple of contracts, but Daniel said he expects no changes in the schedule that will open Nov. 14-15 at the Rhode Island Tipoff with games against the host Rams and Fairfield. Marshall’s home opener is Nov. 22 versus Maryland-Eastern Shore.
Daniel’s team then takes the Thanksgiving trip to Cornell (Nov. 26) and to Coastal Carolina (Nov. 29), then goes to Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 6. After a Dec. 10 home game against Salem International, the Herd visits Norfolk State on Dec. 16.
Marshall and West Virginia meet Dec. 20 – the Saturday before Christmas – in the women’s Capital Classic, which this season isn’t partnered with the men’s game (Dec. 14). Daniel said the women’s tipoff is expected for late afternoon.
The Herd then is home on Dec. 22 against Brescia (Ky.), and after a break for Christmas entertains Robert Morris on Dec. 29 in a return date from MU’s visit to Coraopolis, Pa., season.
Middle Tennessee (29-5) was the C-USA entry in the NCAA Tournament last season, and conference newcomer Western Kentucky (24-9) was in the 64-team field, too, as the Sun Belt Conference champ. West Virginia and Robert Morris also played in the Big Dance. C-USA had six teams in the postseason WNIT, and Fairfield went 22-11 and reached the Women’s Basketball Invitational semifinals.
Eastern Kentucky West Virginia and Western Kentucky are in the 2014 preseason WNIT, too.
Daniel said that among this season’s road games, Rhode Island, Cornell, Coastal Carolina, Eastern Kentucky and Norfolk State are scheduled to return those dates to the Henderson Center in 2015-16, as is New Jersey Tech, which the Herd visited last winter.
Daniel said the C-USA move to a Thursday-Saturday format for league play isn’t an issue with him.
“I don’t care,” Daniel said when asked about the format that leaves only one day, including travel, between games. “We do such a good job prepping (for opponents). Prep is very important to us so I wouldn’t typically like it, but I feel we do such a good job of prepping that I’m fine with it.”
Daniel’s team gains two Division I junior transfers who sat out here last season in Huntington’s 6-foot Talequia Hamilton (moved from Cincinnati) and 5-11 Ashley Lambert (UMBC). They will aid the Herd’s frontcourt play.
The lone 2014-15 signee is guard Maikala McCloud of Miami. “We’re excited about her,” Daniel said. “We really like her skill set.”
Daniel said the Herd players will report in mid-July for summer classes and workouts, while the Herd staff looks forward to not just this season, but beyond, when MU has several early commitments from players from the area.
“We looked at three transcripts in the last three days, two of which are committed from high school to us, and they were 4.0 transcripts and they’re local kids,” Daniel said. “We’re getting the right kind of player, and for the first time in two years here, I feel like we can take a breath – because we’ve been trying to put out fires from basically the moment we stepped foot on campus.
“I feel like the program is fixed now as far as behaviorally and academically. Now, we’ve got to get good people who can play ball, and I think we’re heading in that direction.”