Marshall basketball: Herd suffers 'terribly disappointing loss'
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall Coach Tom Herrion offered a halftime warning, junior DeAndre Kane said.
Trailing by 12 against Southern Methodist, Kane said Herrion told the team that a jump in energy was the only way the Herd could come back. Stay at the same pace, and the team wouldn't like the result.
That prediction turned out to be true.
Marshall slogged through another rough performance from every part of the court in a 68-57 loss Wednesday night at the Henderson Center. That robbed the Herd of the chance at its first 3-0 home start since it joined Conference USA.
It was Marshall's third straight loss and also snapped SMU's three-game losing streak. For the Mustangs (12-10, 2-5), it also was the first win in eight tries over the Herd (9-12, 2-4). Marshall has now lost seven of its last nine games.
Elijah Pittman and D.D. Scarver led Marshall with 15 points each, but were a combined 10 of 30 from the field.
Herrion didn't lay the blame solely on Marshall's offense after the game, though the Herd's 33.9 percent shooting from the floor was a problem. He was more concerned about breakdowns in defense and rebounding.
"It's a terribly disappointing loss, to say the least," Herrion said. "What disappoints me the most is our lack of ability to gain an understanding of who we are. We just will not defend and rebound every night.
"You can talk about the offense and the shots and all that," he continued. "But (allowing) 56 percent (shooting) and minus-seven on the glass at the half ... we did not defend and we did not rebound. We've lost our identity, in my opinion."
The Herd and the Mustangs sit on opposite ends of the C-USA rebounding rankings. Marshall is second at 39.7 per game, while SMU is 10th with 33.2 per game. On Wednesday, though, the roles were reversed, with the Mustangs holding a 41-35 edge. And SMU's slow, steady, clock-draining offense allowed the Mustangs some surprisingly open lanes to the basket. SMU scored 30 points in the paint.
Meanwhile, Marshall struggled against SMU's zone defense the entire night. The Herd had trouble driving the lane for most of the night and settled for outside shots it often struggles to make. Marshall is ninth in C-USA shooting 33 percent from beyond the arc, but tried 28 shots from 3-point range against SMU, making just seven.
"Their game plan was to stop our drive," Kane said. "Every time someone drove, they packed the lane."
SMU Coach Larry Brown said he uses the zone defense because he must, even though coaching it isn't his forte.
"If you ever watched us coach, I don't know what a zone is, to be honest with you," he said. "I don't know how to coach it; I don't know how to play against it. But we have to do it our bench is so short. The zone helped us tempo-wise. I think it helped us on the boards."
The Herd started out active and intense on defense, recording four steals less than five minutes into the game and four blocks nine minutes into the game. But Marshall's offense, which looked livelier in Saturday's one-point loss to Memphis, didn't seem to make the trip back from Tennessee.
Layups missed the mark and 3-pointers rolled out of the basket after falling halfway in. By halftime, the Herd had made just 8 of 27 shots from the floor. And as Marshall's offense sputtered, the defense began to stumble as well. SMU's deliberately paced offense led to a slew of midrange jumpers and some easy cuts to the basket.
The Mustangs made 15 of 27 first-half shots and went into halftime leading 35-23. Only the 17 points Marshall scored in the first half against both Delaware State and Southern Mississippi were worse this season.
"We had an off-night shooting, a terrible night defending, and we lost the rebounding," Kane said. "That's our identity. Every time we lose the rebounding margin, we lose the game. Every time they shoot (50 percent) from the field, we lose the game."
Kane scored 13 points for Marshall, while Dennis Tinnon pulled down a season-high 17 rebounds. Jalen Jones led SMU with 19 points, while Ryan Manuel scored 17 and Nick Russell scored 15.
The Herd next hosts Central Florida and former Herd coach Donnie Jones at 2 p.m. Saturday. It will be the Knights' final trip to Huntington as a C-USA opponent.
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.