CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The mood after the Marshall men's basketball team's Saturday loss to Memphis wasn't one of glee, but it was a lot better than the scene following the previous game.
After one of the most lopsided losses in program history at Southern Mississippi, the Thundering Herd rebounded to battle the Tigers into the final seconds of a 73-72 loss. Despite coming up short, Marshall Coach Tom Herrion said his team showed the characteristics that made it so dominant in wins against previous Conference USA foes Tulsa and East Carolina.
"Our poise, our tempo offensively, we were back to being a team that flew around a little bit," Herrion said. "There were more bodies on bodies. We played at a physical level that we had to, to put ourselves in position for a chance to win that game."
And the Herd (9-11, 2-3 C-USA) had those opportunities in the game's final minute. After trailing by as many as 10, Marshall got as close as 70-69 on a Dennis Tinnon layup with 1:18 left. Marshall had four chances to tie the game or take its first lead in the final 45 seconds, but missed all four shots. Chris Crawford tacked on a pair of insurance free throws for Memphis, and a DeAndre Kane 3-pointer with time running out gave the Tigers (16-3, 5-0 C-USA) their final margin of victory.
It was a 180-degree turn in effort from the previous loss, a 56-point blowout at Southern Miss that had Herrion perplexed at his team's lack of competitive fire. He said the atmosphere during the team's post-game meeting, the coaches' meeting afterward and the team breakfast Thursday morning wasn't pretty.
"We challenged each other to turn the page, and we've done that," Herrion said. "Once our Thursday morning team breakfast came, that was over. We felt good after practice that afternoon. Under the circumstances, I'm pleased with the way the team responded."
Marshall's performance Saturday convinced Memphis Coach Josh Pastner the Herd has potential as a team to be reckoned with down the stretch.
"That's a dangerous team," he said after the game. "That's a good win for us."
Now the Herd returns to Huntington for its first back-to-back C-USA games at the Henderson Center this season. Marshall hosts SMU and legendary Coach Larry Brown at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, followed by former Herd Coach Donnie Jones and UCF at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Herrion said it'll be important for the team to return to its home routine and get some players on the mend.
Elijah Pittman didn't start due to illness but played 28 minutes against Memphis, scoring nine points. Herrion said the junior was back at the doctor for a checkup Sunday. He added that Nigel Spikes, who hurt his ankle late in the game Saturday, should be OK for Wednesday, and that DeAndre Kane, who led all scorers with 22 points, is still fighting through a groin injury.
And while the Herd played better in some areas versus Memphis - outrebounding the Tigers 39-33 and committing just 13 turnovers - areas of improvement remain. The Tigers hit 5 of 7 first-half 3-pointers to put the Herd in an early hole, and Marshall made its first five free throws, but made just 6 of 12 after that.
"What I'd rather concentrate on as we move forward are the things that will lead us to playing better," Herrion said. "We've done that during certain stretches. Now, with 11 conference games left, let's grow from it so we can finish this out and put ourselves in better chances to win games down the stretch."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.r...@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.