Marshall basketball: Herd hopes break beneficial
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- The last time the game clock reached zeroes for the Marshall, it was smarting after an 82-54 loss Dec. 22 at Kentucky.
That's a long time to let memories of such a defeat linger.
Marshall Coach Tom Herrion has been doing his best to work those memories out of everyone's system since they've reconvened after the Christmas break. Since players returned last Thursday, Herrion figures to have 11 practices under the Thundering Herd's belt before it hosts Delaware State tonight at 7.
As rough as that loss was, Herrion said the team has responded well in preparing for the season's second act.
"I think our attitude has been phenomenal," Herrion said. "I'd like to think we've tightened up our offense and found an even more consistent and renewed desire to become a better defense. Our offensive execution has been our biggest focus on the offensive end of the floor. Defensively, it's just consistency and rebounding."
Both those problems were on display against Kentucky. The Herd (7-6) shot just 29.5 percent from the floor and 26.7 percent from 3-point range against the Wildcats, who blocked seven Marshall shots. UK also scored 52 points in the paint, shot 50 percent in the second half when it realized how well it would fare in the post, and outrebounded Marshall 48-43. The Herd averages plus-4.2 in rebounding margin this season.
That led several players to say postgame that the Christmas break shouldn't be much of a break, that players individually should spend time in the gym between opening presents and family dinners. Senior forward Dennis Tinnon agreed that the attitude the Herd has shown since practice resumed should help down the stretch.
"You have to go out there and always go out there with a positive attitude," he said. "You can never let negativity come through. Like they say, there's always someone watching.
"I think you're really going to see a big difference," Tinnon said of Marshall's second-half prospects. "Everyone's coming in on time and really getting focused. We're going to be ready and pumped to go."
The Herd will host its third Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference foe in Delaware State (5-8, 1-0). It may not be considered a power conference, but MEAC teams have given Marshall all it can handle this season. The Herd didn't take the lead for good until less than five minutes remained in its 69-63 win over Coppin State on Dec. 8.
Marshall was tied at 31 with Savannah State with 16:56 left in the game before pulling away for a 64-48 win on Dec. 19.
The Hornets are led by sophomore Tahj Tate, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound sophomore who averages 15.7 points per game. No other Delaware State player averages double figures in scoring, but the Hornets have two tough inside players in 6-10 sophomore center Kendall Gray and 6-7 senior forward Marques Oliver. The two have combined for 60 blocks in 13 games. Their schedule isn't a soft one, as it has included games at Northwestern, Pitt and Maryland.
After a loaded holiday practice schedule, center Nigel Spikes said it's time to show everyone, Marshall fans and opponents included, that the Herd is ready to bounce back from an up-and-down first half of the season.
"I think everyone is coming to realize we can't lose anymore," he said. "I think we need to play harder. We don't play hard enough on the court during the games.
"We just have to come out and make a statement, run on all cylinders," he added. "If we come out like that, we can't lose."
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.