Dec. 5, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
CHARLESTON – Supposedly, it’s not how you start, but how you finish. Don’t tell that to the Marshall women’s basketball team.
An eighth-straight Thundering Herd loss to West Virginia in the Chesapeake Energy Capital Classic series was as much about bad start to both halves for the team in green.
The Herd (4-4) damaged its chances in a 64-48 loss with too many turnovers that WVU (5-2) converted into points. But changing defenses – highlighted by a 2-3 zone that showed promise -- through much of the game kept Coach Mike Carey’s club firing deep.
The problem for the Herd, as a Charleston Civic Center gathering of 2,606 saw, was West Virginia’s superior depth and size.
“If we don’t turn it over so much and make some free throws, maybe we’re right there,” MU coach Matt Daniel said after being impressed by plenty at his first Capital Classic.
Leandra King came off the bench for the Herd and continued to provide more than senior steadiness. The wiry 6-foot-2 post player had a Herd-high 10 points to go with 6 rebounds and 2 blocks in 13 minutes.
“I definitely think it’s starting to show,” King said postgame when asked how Daniel’s 10-player roster is beginning to grasp what the new coach wants. “We’re a much different team than we were in the beginning.
“I think we’re starting to get better chemistry, and listen more and our execution is getting way better.”
King’s five offensive rebounds led the game and the media voted her the Herd’s Classic MVP, but Bria Holmes and Crystal Leary came off the bench to combine for 27 West Virginia points.
Daniel liked his team’s resiliency, too, and for good reason.
While falling behind 14-2 in the opening 5:22, the Herd scored on one of 10 possessions, yet kept battling the deeper and bigger Mountaineers despite a pile of turnovers. WVU made it a 12-point halftime lead (35-23) thanks to a pair of 3-pointers in the final 2:03 that Daniel thought changed the tenor significantly.
Then, Marshall came out for the second half and went 0-for-6 on possessions, as the Mountaineers lifted their lead to 16. MU could get no closer than 11 the rest of the way.
“All night (she thought the Herd could rally). Until the last two minutes, I thought we could come back,” King said. “It was kind of a shaky start, so you’re thinking, ‘come on, what’s going on?’ but (the young Herd players) just have to build their confidence up and play just like it’s another game.”
Carey got 108 minutes, 36 points and 20 rebounds off his bench. Daniel got 47, 18 and 15.
Marshall’s season-high 26 turnovers led to 33 West Virginia points, and the Herd made only 5 of 17 free throws.
But Daniel was encouraged and said he was “happy to see the fight in us,” after his Herd fell behind so fast so early.
“The last three halves, the second half against Presbyterian (a Saturday win in Richmond, Ky.) and these two halves, we looked more like a basketball team, as opposed to just out there. We’re not a hodge-podge group anymore. We were, but we’re starting to figure out how to execute … It wasn’t just chaotic.”
What’s permitted that to happen?
“I feel like we concentrate more, and execute better,” King said, “and everything comes together after that.”
The first half showed the Herd its capabilities as it grows. After that 1-of-10-possession start, Marshall scored on 11-of-23 possessions when it wasn’t turning it over (15 times) to finish the 20 minutes. The improved efficiency could have been even better, but the Herd missed all of its free throw chances on four other possessions.
Daniel left the Civic Center encouraged, as his club heads to Southern Illinois (0-6 and facing Southeast Missouri on Wednesday night) for a Saturday afternoon tipoff. It will finish a stretch of nine games during which the Herd has played only two dates at the Henderson Center.
“I thought it was a hard-fought game both ways,” Daniel said. “They’re certainly more talented than we are right now, but we’re working diligently to be able to put ourselves in a situation where can compete night-in and night-out with people at that level.”