Marshall basketball: Kane returns, restores confidence for Herd
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Marshall junior guard DeAndre Kane was sitting at home following the Thundering Herd's 94-57 loss to Ohio, going over the game in his head. He remembered the looks on his teammates' faces and the tone of disappointment in their voices on the trip home from Athens.
So he picked up the phone.
"When we got back, I was calling them personally," Kane said, "telling them don't duck their heads. We'll be all right."
Kane's return following nearly a month's absence doesn't just give the Herd back its top scorer and assist man. It also gives Marshall a shot of confidence the team will need heading into Wednesday's 7 p.m. Conference USA opener against Tulsa.
Confidence was hard to come by Saturday, after 19 first-half turnovers helped put the Herd (7-8) behind by as many as 33 points before halftime. That game also marked Kane's first appearance since Marshall's Dec. 8 win over Coppin State. A broken right hand had sidelined him until he checked in less than a minute into the Ohio game.
It wasn't his best game of the season in terms of the stat sheet. Kane scored six points on 3-of-10 shooting in 20 minutes, adding eight rebounds, two assists and four turnovers and fouling out with 7:46 left in the game. But Marshall Coach Tom Herrion commended Kane for trying to be a leader Saturday, and said the junior's natural confidence could seep in to the rest of the team.
"He has the ability to give us a little more toughness and confidence," Herrion said. "That's his personality and some of his traits. We've got to get him back into rhythm. Practicing for two days and playing, he was a little out of rhythm and out of sorts and that's to be expected. But we have to get him back up to speed, because he's a terrific player."
Kane, a preseason all-Conference-USA first team selection, said his hand was swollen after the game and still hurts even with the protective cover he now wears over it. But the time had come for him to return to the court. He couldn't take sitting out any longer.
"I love being out here with my team," he said. "There's nothing better than being out here. I wanted to get out here bad."
As Kane's hand continues to heal and he gets back into playing form, the statistical benefits should start to show. Before he was hurt, he was averaging 15.0 points and 8.5 assists per game after sliding over from shooting guard to point guard this year. His assist average was at one point the second best in the country.
"Dre being back is great," senior forward Dennis Tinnon said. "He contributes so much on the floor with his versatility. Just his presence on the court makes the game different. It spreads the floor out. He's a great driver, getting to the bucket. That's easy dishes for us to get easy buckets."
Kane would like to see the game come easily to the Herd again. During Marshall's three game losing streak - a 28-point loss to Kentucky, a two-point home loss to Delaware State and the loss to the Bobcats - he felt the team was thinking too much. With Marshall's conference schedule about to start, Kane said the Herd must remember the talents that got it to the collegiate level and helped it win at least 21 games in each of the previous three seasons.
"We all just have to play better, as one," Kane said. "I think lately, it's been about 'I' and 'me' and stats, things like that. When you play like that, you ain't going to win.
"I know we can make a big run in the conference," he said. "Our season's not over. There's a lot of doubters and a lot of people not believing in us because we're losing. Everybody's giving what they've got, they're just falling short. But we will get it right."
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.