Herd holds down the Gaels
HUNTINGTON - The Iona Gaels, the top scoring team in Division I men's college basketball, gets up and down the court faster than Tom Herrion can toss his suit jacket to the side.
Iona had that offense on display in the first 12:26 of the game. But Marshall adjusted and, by the end of the non-conference game at the Henderson Center on Sunday afternoon, Herrion's Herd had held the visiting Gaels to 27 points below their 90.5 season average - its lowest point total of the season.
"I thought after the first 10 minutes that we settled into the game," Herrion said after Marshall avoided a three-game slide and routed Iona, 81-63. "We recognized how fast they were, but it took us almost 10 minutes to settle into their speed.
"They play at a break-neck speed. They get it out and (Scott) Machado is so good at attacking."
Marshall (6-2) trailed 30-22 with 7:34 left of the half, but the duration of the time before intermission was crucial, according to Herrion.
"I thought it was really important," the second-year Herd head coach said. "(Iona has) the ability to run and blow you out with their speed and potency on offense. It's so explosive, so fast and they run it right up your backs.
"I thought once we settled into the game, we were much better in the half court, controlling the dribble."
The Herd's Damier Pitts and Justin Coleman scored on consecutive possessions to trim the deficit to two points, and the Herd eventually took a 42-40 lead into the locker room after trailing by as many as eight.
It marked the fifth consecutive game MU has trailed a game by eight points or more.
"First half, I think we came out flat defensively," Marshall guard DeAndre Kane said. "In the second half, we locked in."
Kane, in particular. The 6-foot-4 sophomore had three of his career-high five steals in the second half. Iona wanted to rebound Herd misses and get the ball in transition, but that seldom worked. Marshall missed 29 shots and finished with 19 offensive rebounds and had a plus-21 advantage (39-18) on the boards.
That's not a misprint ... Marshall had one more offensive rebound than Iona had total rebounds.
"There wasn't a lot of opportunity for us to get out on the break," said Iona Coach Tim Cluess, whose team had won seven consecutive games entering Sunday's matchup. "They did a nice job of finding our guys in transition and hustling back.
"I think we were a little careless with the basketball and we missed a few of those by three or four inches where maybe some of the teams we've played weren't as long or athletic."
Herrion said that can be attributed, in part, to a halftime adjustment that mitigated Iona's relentless offensive pressure.
"We started getting wide a little bit," he said. "They get out so quick to Machado and they fly those wings and we were finally able to get out a little more in transition defense and kind of take that pitch away, which we gave up early in the game.
"I thought that was a good adjustment for our guys."
The win snapped a two-game losing skid for Marshall. The Herd lost at home to Ohio and on the road to No. 3 Syracuse, the latter of which might be No. 1 when the new top 25 polls are released today.
Marshall had never lost consecutive home games or dropped three games in a row under Herrion.
"We just beat a very good team," Herrion said of Iona, which had an RPI of No. 28 prior to the game. "I hope you understand how good of a club that is."
Pitts finished with a season-high 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting (4-for-7 on 3-pointers). Kane had a well-rounded stat line of 19 points, five assists and five steals.
Marshall outscored Iona 40-23 in the second half and had a 25-8 edge on second-chance points overall.
The Herd has three more home games before Christmas, with the next coming Saturday against High Point.
Contact sportswriter Chuck McGill at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.