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Marshall basketball: Herd trying to shake scoring doldrums

HUNTINGTON -- In the past 10 games, Marshall Coach Tom Herrion has watched his team go 4-6 and average 61.3 points per game.

In that stretch, the Thundering Herd is 0-5 when it fails to crack the 60-point barrier. In hopes of snapping his team out of its offensive doldrums - and to prepare for this Saturday's uptempo opponent, East Carolina - the third-year head coach switched the practice routine.

Wednesday's practice had an offseason feel, with the team working out in smaller groups for one-hour intervals in order to receive more individual instruction.

"It was unbelievably valuable to us," said Herrion, who broke the team into groups of four during three one-hour sessions Wednesday. "It was a good way to break up our week.

"We did a lot of shooting; a lot of shooting. We had four different position guys in an hour workout, so half of it is spent on offensive skill development and then we spent time on cleaning up some stuff, execution, five-on-zero, going through plays.

"And then we put in some of our defensive coverage in regards to East Carolina."

The Pirates (11-5, 2-1 Conference USA) visit the Henderson Center to face the Herd (8-9, 1-1) Saturday at 7 p.m.

East Carolina, in contrast to Marshall, is the top scoring team in C-USA at 78.1 points per game. Third-year Coach Jeff Lebo has watched his squad score 80 or more points nine times in 16 games this season.

The Pirates scored 80 or more points nine times in Lebo's first two seasons (61 games) combined.

ECU is No. 23 nationally in scoring.

"They're really explosive; it's an explosive offensive group," Herrion said. "They're really balanced in their attack. Almost all five starters average double figures and they're probably the best perimeter shooting team in the conference."

ECU has two players - Maurice Kemp (18.3) and Miguel Paul (12.5) - average double figures. He has reached double figures in all but one game and the Pirates are 5-1 when he scores 20 or more points.

Kemp, a 6-foot-8 senior, is coming off a career-high 30-point performance in Wednesday's 89-78 home win over Houston. Paul is second in the conference in assists behind Marshall's DeAndre Kane, and had 27 points and 17 assists in two games against the Herd last season.

Lebo has seven other players who average between 5.1 and 9.9 points per game.

The Pirates have scored at least 80 points in four of the last five games, including the 89 points against Houston and 88 points in a three-point win over UCF last Saturday.

East Carolina leads Conference USA in assists (17.73), 3-pointers (116) and 3-pointers attempted (355).

That style of play could benefit Marshall, although the Herd is 10th out of 12 league teams in field goal percentage defense (42.1) and 10th in 3-point field goal percentage (34.3).

It could also help Herrion's Herd get into an offensive rhythm.

"I don't know, but we'll find out," Herrion said. "Offensively (East Carolina) has been really impressive to me. It starts with Paul, who is arguably one of the best point guards in the conference. His playmaking opens shots for the guys and they've got balance and depth."

Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at chuck.mcgill@dailymail.com or 304-348-7949.

 


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