LEXINGTON, Ky. - The holiday break will be a break in name only, as far as a number of Marshall men's basketball players were concerned Saturday night.
Between family dinners and opening gifts, senior forward Dennis Tinnon said he will be spending plenty of time in the gym. So did senior center Nigel Spikes and junior forward Elijah Pittman, plans sealed by a humbling 82-54 loss to Kentucky at Rupp Arena.
The Thundering Herd (7-6) won't play another game until Jan. 2 when it hosts Delaware State at 7 p.m. That's a long time to reflect on the problems that plagued the team in the season's first 13 games. When the team comes together again Thursday, it will try to move forward collectively, as the Conference USA schedule looms on the horizon.
Tinnon said each player needs to ask himself some important questions over the break. The answers, he added, should be quite simple.
"Can I go put up 500 free throws?" he asked. "Can I go do a thousand layups so we won't miss so many? If you love the game of basketball, you're going to put in the work to make sure you're a better player."
Marshall Coach Tom Herrion said fixing the Herd's offensive woes must be a primary focus. He felt the team played well defensively at times against the Wildcats, but Marshall's inability to score put the onus on the defense to be as close to perfect as possible.
"Our offensive inefficiency right now is destroying us," he said. "It's putting so much pressure on our defense every possession down. You can't do that against any good team, let alone on the road at Kentucky in this atmosphere."
In the first half against the Wildcats, Marshall missed two of four layups, plus another seven of nine shots in and around the low post. In the second half, the Herd didn't fare any better, missing two of six layups and nine of 11 shots in and around the low post. Free throws also remain a problem. Marshall made just 14 of 26 against Kentucky and its 58.8-percent clip from the line is dead last in Conference USA.
Marshall's young point guards - sophomore Chris Martin and freshman Tamron Manning - struggled against the Wildcats' defense. The two combined for just one assist against five turnovers. As a team, the Herd recorded six assists and 17 turnovers. As junior guard DeAndre Kane remains out with a broken right hand, Martin and Manning will continue to handle the lion's share of Marshall's point-guard duties.