Marshall basketball: Road woes continue to pile up for Herd
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Marshall men's basketball team made ESPN's "SportsCenter" on Wednesday night. But after a 102-46 shellacking at the hands of Southern Mississippi, it was for all the wrong reasons.
The show highlighted the lowest point of the Thundering Herd's ninth-straight road loss (0-6 this season), a 47-4 first-half run that buried Marshall by halftime. It was a performance that had Marshall Coach Tom Herrion apologizing to fans on the radio after the game.
And after the game, Herrion said he made it clear to the players that type of performance shouldn't happen again.
"I was brutally honest with our guys," he said. "Losing is not tolerated in this program and losing the way we did was totally unacceptable. Each one of us to a man was responsible. It was a very disappointing evening as a group from top to bottom."
The Herd (9-10, 2-2 Conference USA) likely won't have it any easier in its next game, a 2 p.m. Saturday matchup at Memphis. The Tigers (15-3, 4-0 C-USA) sit right behind the Golden Eagles (16-4, 5-0 C-USA) in the conference standings, the only two teams undefeated in league play.
It would be tough for things to get much worse for the Herd, which has won just one game - an 80-58 neutral-site victory over Division II District of Columbia - away from the Cam Henderson Center. Southern Miss entered Wednesday's game with just one player averaging double figures in scoring. Five Eagles scored at least 10 points against Marshall.
The Herd blew past its season high with 31 turnovers, shot 33.3 percent from the floor, 33.3 percent from 3-point range and 39.4 percent from the free throw line. Thanks to that 47-4 run, the Eagles led by as many as 40 in the first half. And even if Southern Miss had gone scoreless in the second half, the Eagles still would have beaten the Herd by seven points.
It continued a troubling trend of lopsided Marshall road losses. Prior to Wednesday's 56-point loss to the Eagles, the Herd had lost by 28 at Kentucky, by 37 at Ohio and by 11 at UTEP.
Herrion said he liked the effort and attitude shown at Thursday's practice, which made what happened Wednesday pretty puzzling. And the key for Saturday will be to take that practice energy and make sure it's evident on the game floor.
"It was encouraging, but now have to do it on the road and get it done on the road," he said. "What we saw Wednesday was not reflective of what we want identity of program to be.
"For the first time in three years," he added, "that lack of competitiveness was ... I don't get that, I don't like that and I don't want that."
Now Marshall faces the Tigers, long considered the class of Conference USA and the preseason favorite to win the league. Memphis shines in several categories that aren't good for Marshall's struggling offense. The Tigers lead the league in blocked shots (6.1 per game), are second in steals (10.0 per game) and third in field goal percentage defense (39.6 percent allowed).
Meanwhile, the Herd is dead last in Conference USA in turnover margin (minus-3.2) and 10th out of 12 teams in field goal percentage (41.9 percent), a mark that also ranks it 233rd in Division I.
The Tigers are led by junior guard Joe Jackson, who averages 13.8 points per game and shoots 48.8 percent from 3-point range. That's another area of concern for Marshall, which let Southern Miss make 11 of 20 from beyond the arc. Sophomore swingman Adonis Thomas and junior guard Geron Johnson average 10.4 and 10.2 points, respectively, and senior swingman D.J. Stephens leads Memphis inside. He tops the Tigers with 6.7 rebounds per game and 2.1 blocks per game, which ties him with Houston's TaShawn Thomas for the C-USA lead.
"The one thing everything talked about Memphis not having is experience, and they have that now," Herrion said. "They've got great depth and they score in and score out. When they open the floor up, they're really dangerous. They're a really, really good team."
Marshall junior guard DeAndre Kane still leads C-USA with 7.3 assists per game, but had 11 turnovers to just two assists against the Eagles. Herrion also said that normal starters Dennis Tinnon and Nigel Spikes started Wednesday's game on the bench for being late to a team meeting. Tinnon and Spikes still ended up playing 26 and 20 minutes, respectively.