Marshall basketball: Offense off mark for Herd
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Marshall guard D.D. Scarver pulled down a rebound against No. 11 Cincinnati with 16:02 left in their game Saturday.
The junior darted down the court and knifed toward the basket. But his layup missed the mark.
Senior center Nigel Spikes was right there, though, to try and tip the ball back in and cut the Bearcats' lead to one. That shot bounced off the rim as well. This time, Cincinnati's Sean Kilpatrick was there for the rebound.
Shaquille Thomas was there five seconds later on the other end for a jumper that extended the lead to five.
That wasn't the only time in Marshall's 72-56 loss at the Civic Center that point-blank shots missed the mark for the Herd. It wasn't the only game this season that Marshall has struggled from close range.
It's not that the Thundering Herd isn't trying to fix the problem. The solution has been hard to come by. And that it hasn't yet appeared is maddening to both players and coaches.
"It's frustrating," Marshall Coach Tom Herrion said. "I know they're not trying to miss. They've got to play stronger. I don't know where it's come from, but we've got to continue to address it and continue to get better at it."
The Herd (6-5) trailed the Bearcats (10-0) by just four points at halftime, despite making just 8 of 22 shots from the floor.
Remove the fact that Marshall went 5-for-5 from 3-point range in that span, and the Thundering Herd made just 3 of 17 shots from everywhere else.
All three of those baskets were layups, but Marshall missed another six, plus three more shots from close range.
It's not been uncommon for a team to shoot like that against Cincinnati this season.
The Bearcats are holding opponents to 34.1 percent shooting from the floor. Marshall, however, isn't just struggling against top-10 opponents.
The Herd needed a second-half surge to overcome Coppin State, a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference team that's now 2-9 on the year. Marshall trailed the Eagles 34-26 at halftime after missing five layups and another nine shots in or near the paint.
The Herd is shooting 43.5 percent from the floor this season, 168th out of 345 Division I men's basketball teams. In its last three games, where the Herd is 1-2, it's shot 39.4 percent. Herrion said Friday that a factor might be some players hurrying their shots, maybe anticipating and trying to avoid contact. Forward Elijah Pittman said Saturday that the team might need better focus underneath the hoop.
"We've just got to focus more and look at the rim," Pittman said. "I don't want to say it like that, like we just catch it and throw up a prayer. We've just got to focus and make the layups or dunks. It's easy points."
Herrion just wants his team to be aggressive around the rim. He doesn't fault the players' shot selection. He considers most of their shots to be good ones. They're just not falling through.
"I don't want them to think too much," he said. "Play strong, powerful. Attack the rim. But obviously, we have to get more results out of it. There's no doubt about it."
The Herd will need better performances from its veteran post players than it got Saturday. Spikes and senior forwards Robert Goff and Dennis Tinnon made just 2 of 13 total shots against Cincinnati. Goff was the only one of the trio to score from the floor, making 2 of 4 attempts. Tinnon missed all three of his attempts. Spikes missed all six of his.
It doesn't look like the paths to the basket will get any clearer for the Herd this week. Wednesday's opponent, Savannah State, is on a three-game losing streak, but is allowing teams to shoot just 38.7 percent. Then Marshall visits Kentucky on Saturday, and the Wildcats' foes have shot just 38.6 percent this season.
Regardless of who's blocking the Herd's trail to the hoop, Herrion said that the good shots the players take just have to start going in.
"You've got to put the ball in the basket," he said. "I know it sounds simple, but you've got to put the ball in the basket."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.