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Marshall basketball: Herd hopes to manage depleted roster

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Among the things Marshall men's basketball Coach Tom Herrion took away from watching film of Morehead State was the depth of its bench.

An aggressive, pressing team, the Eagles will often rotate in 10 or 11 players. That's a luxury that, right now, the Thundering Herd doesn't have.

The Thundering Herd (3-3) may have an injury-riddled roster when it hosts the Eagles (4-2) for a 7 p.m. tipoff tonight, but Marshall is confident it can combat Morehead State's numbers with a well-conditioned, albeit short bench.

The team got it done Saturday in an 89-82 win over Nevada. The Herd already had been without guards Kareem Canty (ineligible) and DeVince Boykins (knee). Saturday was Marshall's first game without forward Robert Goff and center Yous Mbao, who collided in a box-out drill during practice last week and are out indefinitely.

"We have to manage it as we continue to move forward," Herrion said. "I've been around long enough to know that things change so quickly in our game, for whatever reasons. A lot of it, for us, has been unfortunate so far. You've got to have another guy ready and you may have some guys playing a little more minutes than they normally would have."

One of those players for the Herd was 6-foot-9 sophomore center J.P. Kambola. He had played just six minutes prior to Saturday's game, but played eight minutes against Nevada. His two points and one rebound meant more than it looks like on paper, Herrion said.

"Now, it may not show up in the stat line, but he gave us really good minutes," he said.

"In that position, eight minutes is very valuable, especially when you're short at that position."

Kambola said his increased playing time offered a personal boost. He played just five total minutes in four games last season and said he feels more confident in himself now that the Herd coach has put more responsibility on his shoulders.

It's actually helped the entire team, Kambola said, both starters and reserves.

"With everyone playing now, the energy from the bench gets better," Kambola said. "The starters feel that, too. Everyone plays to their maximum potential."

The Eagles will have a return of their own tonight. Coach Sean Woods will be back on the bench following a one-game suspension for pushing one of his players during a loss to Kentucky. With assistant Dylan Howard coaching in Woods' place, the Eagles beat Norfolk State 73-67.

Senior forward Milton Chavis leads Morehead State with 18.5 points per game and is the Eagles' only double-digit scorer, but Herrion said they have a balanced lineup where anyone can be dangerous.

"They might be the hardest-playing team we've seen," he said. "They play really, really hard. They've got a lot of guys that can hurt you. They create havoc defensively, they press and get into you."

Kambola said the Herd may be low on numbers, but the team's conditioning should allow it to take on Morehead State's intense challenge.

"We've got guys out here who've played hard, guys who stayed here over the summer and got in better shape," he said. "Morehead may have a lot more guys. We're physically in shape. With the energy of bench and from the crowd, we'll be able to do it."  

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.


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