Marshall basketball: Road has not been kind to Herd
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- As Marshall gets ready for what should be the toughest two-game road test of its Conference USA schedule, the Thundering Herd is trying to inject some of its home magic into its road play.
If you're a C-USA team entering the Cam Henderson Center, you've left bruised and unhappy this season.
Marshall (9-9, 2-1) has beaten its first two visiting conference foes by an average of 19.5 points. If you're hosting the Herd, the shoe is on the other foot. Marshall is 0-5 on the road this season, including a conference loss at UTEP.
So when the Thundering Herd faces Southern Mississippi (15-4, 4-0) tonight at 7 in Hattiesburg (WCHS telecast), it will try once again to match its road performance to its home performance.
"We've got to bottle up some of the positives that we've had," Marshall Coach Tom Herrion said. "We played well against East Carolina. We played well against Tulsa. We played, not well enough to win, but we played pretty well in stretches at UTEP. Now we've got to do it over 40 minutes."
That hasn't been a problem at home. Tulsa walked into the Henderson Center and walked out feeling the sting of an 18-point loss. ECU came to town and lost by 21. It's another story when it's Marshall entering another team's turf.
The Tulsa and East Carolina wins sandwiched an 11-point loss at UTEP where the Thundering Herd made just 4 of 13 3-pointers, was outrebounded 32-23 and trailed by 20 with less than nine minutes to go in the game.
That loss came after some other sometimes-demoralizing losses on the road - by 12 at Villanova, by 28 at Kentucky, by 37 at Ohio. Those opponents aren't slouches and their home courts are no picnic to play on, but Herrion said Marshall's must reverse its fortunes. After Southern Miss tonight, the Herd stays on the road and heads straight to Memphis, No. 2 in the C-USA standings, for a 2 p.m. Saturday game.
"I'm no different than any other coach in the country," he said. "It's one of the biggest challenges in college basketball, winning on the road. We're not exempt from it. Clearly, we haven't gotten the job done. We've got to do things better. We've got to give ourselves a better chance of winning on the road."
It's not always easy to tune out the catcalls and boos from the opponent's home crowd, senior forward Dennis Tinnon said. But that's what the Herd must do in order to fare better on the road.
"Every road game is tough," he said. "When you're playing at home, it's got that different vibe. This is your home. You're born here, you're raised here, you play well here. To find that formula, we have to play within ourselves and give ourselves a tunnel vision where we're just focused on us and our team rather than the whole atmosphere."
Marshall needs to push past any concerns about the atmosphere when it comes to the Golden Eagles. Southern Miss sits atop the C-USA standings for Coach Donnie Tyndall, in his first year after replacing Larry Eustachy, who took over at Colorado State. Even though Tyndall - who took Morehead State to two NCAA Tournaments in six seasons before coming to Hattiesburg - has put his personal touch on the Eagles, Herrion said they still resemble Eustachy's teams in some ways.
"They play really, really, really hard," Herrion said. "They're playing all zone defense in the half court, but it's a very aggressive kind of match zone, but it's all zone. Offensively, they play a little bit faster pace. They shoot quicker in the possession than, maybe, with Larry. Donnie, obviously, has done a good job taking over."
The Golden Eagles have five players averaging at least nine points a game, led by senior forward Dwayne Davis' 12.9 points per game.
The Herd's top players - Tinnon and junior guard DeAndre Kane - are starting to play some of their best basketball. Tinnon averaged 15 points in his last two games and has pulled down double-digit rebounds in four of his last five. Kane had 22 points, eight assists and three steals against East Carolina and his 7.6 assists per game is fifth-best in Division I.
But the key to Marshall's success could be in its defense. In its wins over Tulsa and East Carolina, the Herd held them to 36.5 percent and 32.8 percent shooting, respectively.
"The better our defense, the better the game is," senior center Nigel Spikes said. "If we play good defense and play hard, the offense will come and it'll be a good game for us."
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.