Marshall men's basketball: Herd beats Coppin State, 69-63
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall forward Dennis Tinnon couldn't repeat most of Coach Tom Herrion's halftime speech Saturday night, as the Thundering Herd men's basketball team trailed Coppin State by eight points.
He could say it was loud.
"The whole time," he said. "From the time we went in to the time we went out."
The speech worked. The Herd clawed ahead of the Eagles in the second half and, behind 20 points from D.D. Scarver and 15 points and 15 rebounds from Dennis Tinnon, Marshall escaped with a 69-63 win over Coppin State.
Marshall's shooting percentages skyrocketed from the first half to the second, in all facets. The Herd (6-4) went from 31.6 percent from the floor for the first half to 58.3 percent for the second. After making just two of 16 first-half 3-pointers (12.5 percent), the team made five of nine (55.6 percent) in the second. And after missing their only two free throws of the first half, Marshall made 10 of 17 in the second.
As important, the Herd pushed the Eagles' (1-8) percentages lower, especially from beyond the arc. Coppin State made five of nine first-half 3-pointers. They shot just two of 10 in the second.
"We needed to understand that defense was going to win this game," Tinnon said. "We couldn't give them wide-open threes and let them penetrate to the cup."
That happened often to Marshall in the first half, essentially from the opening tip. Coppin State took a quick 8-2 lead as Marshall made just one of its first 10 shots. Herrion called his first time out less than a minute into the game and called a second at the 17:29 mark.
"I don't think I ever used two time outs that quickly in a game," Herrion said. "I think that speaks to how I felt."
The doldrums continued for the rest of the half. Defensive breakdowns allowed the Eagles open layups and dunks and uncontested 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Marshall dominated the glass, but couldn't convert on its putbacks.
The Herd went into the locker room down 34-26 and ready for an earful from Herrion, who said he was surprised at his team's first-half struggles, considering they had one of their best practices of the year right before the game.
Things didn't start well in the second half for Marshall, as Patrick Cole's 3-pointer gave Coppin State a 37-26 lead. But the Herd started to buckle down on defense, mixing pressure with zone, and started its comeback. Marshall took its first lead of the game on an Elijah Pittman 3-pointer with 9:51 left, watched the Eagles lead by as many as six again, then went on a 15-2 run to take the lead for good.
"They responded at halftime," Herrion said. "We made a run, we went up and we took another punch from them. And then we obviously answered the call and made big plays down the stretch."
Many of those big plays came from Scarver, who scored 12 of his 20 in the second half. The junior college transfer went four for nine from 3-point range.
"I had confidence, followed through on my shot and knocked them down," he said.
The Eagles had no answer down the stretch. Coach Ron "Fang" Mitchell said Coppin State's youth – the Eagles start two freshmen and a sophomore – came into play.
"That the thing that – I hate to say this – as a young team, you're going to have your ups and downs. When things are going well, they're good. They have to find a way when things start going bad to get it together. They put the pressure on us and we didn't handle it well."
Michael Murray led Coppin State with 18 points, while Charles Ieans and Collin Johnson each scored 13. Pittman scored 14 for Marshall, while DeAndre Kane added 11 assists and nine points. Kane came off the bench Saturday, as Chris Martin started but played just seven minutes. Herrion said the move was a coach's decision.
-- 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.