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Herd summer workouts all about the defense

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - If the Marshall men's basketball team needed something to shake any early Tuesday morning cobwebs, Coach Tom Herrion was happy to oblige.

Herrion's voice often echoed through the Henderson Center as he pushed the Thundering Herd through an intense one-hour defensive workout. NCAA rules allow the team two hours a week during the summer, and Herrion has made defense top priority.

"When we're together as a team, it's strictly defense," he said.

"That's all we're doing."

In some areas, the Herd can use the work. There was no debate the team could rebound last season. It led Conference USA in rebounding and was 10th nationally in rebounding margin. Yet when it came to keeping opposing teams off the scoreboard, it was a different matter.

Marshall was next to last in the conference in scoring defense (68.1 points allowed per game) and dead last in field goal percentage defense (opponents shot 45 percent from the floor). Those marks left Marshall tied for 204th out of 338 Division I teams in scoring defense and alone at No. 256 in field goal percentage defense.

The Herd wants to make the leap from first-round NIT exit, like last season, to NCAA Tournament entrant, a spot the team hasn't reached since 1987. Junior guard DeAndre Kane, an All-Conference USA second-team pick last season, knows better defense should help get them there.

"We know guys are going to get the ball (on rebounds), but we have to step up our defense," Kane said. "Guarding the ball, picking the ball up on full-court and pick-and-roll defense, there's a lot of things we have to go over and he's going to stress that for a while."

It's not just Xs and Os for Marshall, Herrion said. The Herd will work on terminology, footwork and positioning. He also wants to see a greater commitment to defense from everyone.

"As good of a rebounding team we were and as dominant at times as we were, I was really disappointed overall when I looked back and saw some of the tape from last year," Herrion said. "We regressed as a defensive group, and that's got to be corrected. That's why we're addressing it immediately."

Forward Dennis Tinnon, who sat out Tuesday's practice with a walking boot on his left foot, said the team is ready to do all it can to be the defensive team Herrion wants.

"If he says he wants defense, we're going to go out there and defend," he said. "If he wants one of us to go out there and get 15 rebounds, that's what we're going to do.

"We have to come together as one and make sure we're willing to help each other," Tinnon added. "If a guy is dribbling to the middle of the lane, let's help out and let's stop that guy. We have to work together as a team."

So the Herd will come together each week and shoehorn as much as it can into 60 minutes. It's a supersonic pace, but Tinnon said that's the pace at which Herrion moves.

"Coach is like that," Tinnon said. "One thing you know about him, he's always live. You could come in here at 3 o'clock in the morning and he'll be live and ready."

* * *

TINNON WASN'T the only Herd starter sitting Tuesday's practice with an injury. Post player Robert Goff also sat out with a brace on his right knee. Herrion said little about the injuries, but did say he expects both players back on the court as soon as possible.

* * *

THE HERD had a couple additional new faces on the court Tuesday morning. Academic non-qualifier Anthony Livingston, standing 6-foot-7, came to Marshall from Beacon Prep in Georgia. Walk-on Austin Loop, from South Webster High in Ohio, also joined the group. Loop was Ohio's Division IV Southeast District Player of the Year as a senior.

The two joined freshmen Kareem Canty annd Tamron Manning and academi non-qualifier Ryan Taylor as newcomers.

Marshall's two junior college transfers, guard D.D. Scarver and forward Elijah Pittman, were finishing up their time at their respective junior colleges and not at Tuesday's practice. They'll join the team when classes begin in Huntington. Another academic non-qualifier, Kelvin Amayo, enrolled in January and should be available after the first semester if he meets his academic requirements.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712.


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