Marshall basketball: Herrion, Herd still in search of point guard
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- DeAndre Kane was Marshall Coach Tom Herrion's backup plan at point guard. And what a backup plan he was.
After the NCAA ruled freshman point guard Kareem Canty ineligible for the season, Herrion gave his junior shooting guard the ball-handling duties and he responded with 8.5 assists per game.
But since Kane broke his hand and hasn't played since the Thundering Herd's Dec. 8 win over Coppin State, Herrion has tried to find a backup plan to his backup plan.
That's proven to be a tougher project.
When the Herd (7-7) travels to Athens to face Ohio at 2 p.m. Saturday, it remains in search of a steady hand at point guard, despite giving three players a chance.
As for Kane's potential return, he remained in street clothes for Marshall's 53-51 loss to Delaware State, but the cast on his right hand was gone. In its place was a smaller protective covering. After the game, though, Herrion wouldn't give a definitive timetable for Kane.
"The only thing that'll be new is when he plays," he said.
The Herd could have used him Wednesday night against the Hornets. Three players shared point guard duties against Delaware State - freshmen Tamron Manning and Kelvin Amayo and sophomore Chris Martin.
Manning played 23 minutes, Amayo 16 and Martin nine. The three combined for eight points, all by Amayo, four assists and a turnover.
Marshall has struggled mightily with assists and turnovers in Kane's absence. In the four games Kane has missed, Marshall has recorded 39 assists to 71 turnovers. The Herd has reached double digits in assists just once, getting 15 in a win against Savannah State. They've suffered no fewer than 15 turnovers in any of those four games.
In the first half versus the Hornets, assists were almost nowhere to be seen. Marshall had only two against nine turnovers. That contributed to the Herd's 17-point first half. In all, Marshall had nine assists against 15 turnovers in a loss to a Delaware State team missing its only double-digit scorer and a center averaging 3.5 blocks per game.
And while pining for Canty and Kane might be easy to do, Herrion said it's a futile exercise. He must solve Marshall's passing problems with the players on the court, not the ones out of uniform.
"Canty and Kane aren't playing," Herrion said. "Do the math. We've got guys not making plays, that aren't setting up plays for other guys. Maybe we don't have guys that can do it. I don't know. It's alarming when our assist-to-turnover ratio has plummeted in the last couple weeks."
Senior forward Dennis Tinnon and junior forward Elijah Pittman both said it's not just up to the guards to rack up assists and cut down on turnovers. Everyone can play a part in making things better.
"We can also help bringing the ball down the court," Tinnon said. "If it get to where the point guard is really on his heels, then Elijah can bring the ball up or I can bring the ball up."
But against Delaware State, Tinnon and Pittman combined for seven of Marshall's 15 turnovers. Three came from Tinnon and four came from Pittman.
"We've got to start moving the ball, playing defense, having less turnovers and letting the game determine itself," Pittman said.
The two combined for three assists. That's another issue, Herrion said. Marshall's turnover problems can't solely be pinned on the point guards.
"It's collective," he said. "It's not one guy. Fifteen turnovers wasn't just guards, it was different guys turning the ball over."
The Herd might be catching the Bobcats (8-5) at the right time. Ohio has lost five of its last seven games, the last loss coming Dec. 29 in a 74-63 setback to Oklahoma. In that game, the Bobcats committed 18 turnovers and recorded just five steals. Ohio, however, is 8-1 at home this year, its only loss coming against Winthrop, 50-49, on Dec. 15.
Senior guard D.J. Cooper leads the Bobcats with 14.3 points and 7.8 assists per game. Redshirt senior guard Walter Offutt adds 11.9 points per game.
Tinnon said the focus and energy, or lack thereof, Marshall showed against Delaware State can't repeat itself versus Ohio.
"It was just like another game," Tinnon said of Wednesday's loss, "like, 'Well, we lost to Delaware State,' and accepted it. That is not good. The only thing we can do is, like we always say, we have to move on to the next game and have something different. But I'm tired of losing."
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.