Marshall basketball: Herd still looking for touch
There were a few minutes at the start of the Capital Classic against West Virginia University that it looked like the Marshall men's basketball team's offensive woes might have subsided.
D.D. Scarver drained a 3-pointer. After a missed DeAndre Kane layup, Elijah Pittman came back with a jumper and a layup. Scarver missed a 3-pointer, but Kane hit one from beyond the arc and Scarver scored on a jumper.
The Thundering Herd made five of its first seven shots and held a seven-point lead over the Mountaineers. Yet the Herd's shooting touch disappeared again.
Marshall made just four of its next 16 shots, lost that lead and never regained it, losing to the Mountaineers 69-59. It was another dismal offensive performance for Marshall (5-4), its third straight, but this time the Herd couldn't overcome it for a win. It will try to regroup for Saturday's 7 p.m. home game versus Coppin State.
Marshall Coach Tom Herrion said his team didn't take bad shots. It just couldn't make the shots it did take.
"We missed baskets," he said. "Point blank, we missed open threes. I thought our shot selection wasn't atrocious or bad, relatively speaking. We didn't finish around the basket. Early in the second half, we came out and went inside and couldn't convert around the basket and didn't make free throws to compensate for that."
The Herd's 34.5 percent shooting night (19-for-55 from the floor) comes on the heels of a 33.3 percent shooting night against Morehead State and a 36.4 percent shooting night against the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. The difference between Wednesday's performance and the previous two was that Marshall beat Morehead and UNCW.
Another difference was that the Herd imposed its will inside against Morehead and UNCW, but not so much against WVU. Marshall outrebounded the Eagles 53-46 and outrebounded the Seahawks 39-30.
The Mountaineers controlled the boards in the Capital Classic, outrebounding Marshall 43-35 and scoring 36 points in the paint to Marshall's 18 and 12 second-chance points to the Herd's two.
Marshall should be able to rebound, both literally and figuratively, against Coppin State. The Eagles have won just one game in eight tries this season, beating Division II Cheyney 98-78. Coppin State sports a rebounding margin of minus-7.8, and the Eagles' 34.2 rebounds per game ties them with LIU-Brooklyn and Northern Illinois for 206th-best in Division I.
The Herd can't afford a letdown Saturday, as it heads into a tough streak in its non-conference schedule. Of its next five games, three are against Cincinnati (in Charleston) on Dec. 15, at Kentucky on Dec. 22 and at rival Ohio on Jan. 5. Senior forward Robert Goff is suspended for Saturday's game. Goff was ejected from Wednesday's game with 1:37 left after kicking WVU guard Juwan Staten.
Pittman said the Herd doesn't have any time to waste in solving its offensive problems.
"We got to scratch our heads," Pittman said. "We've got to finish, actually. There's not even an excuse for that. We just have to finish with the ball."
There were long spans where that didn't happen Wednesday. Marshall went the last 5:01 of the first half without scoring a basket. There also was a six-minute span in the second half where the Herd went without a basket. It didn't help that Marshall made just 12 of 22 free throws against West Virginia.
Center Nigel Spikes said that, even if it means putting in overtime, the team has to turn things around.
"We need to just come in the gym on our own time and put in some work," he said. "Just watch film, be stronger with the ball. There's a lot of things we need to do and still need to work on."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.