Marshall basketball: Spikes, Herd expect battle with Tigers
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- The Marshall men's basketball team got one goal out of the way Wednesday night - getting a win, as close as it was.
The Thundering Herd returns to the court Saturday to attempt something it hasn't accomplished since December - winning two in a row.
That won't be easy, as the Herd (11-14, 4-6 Conference USA) hosts C-USA's only ranked team, No. 22 Memphis at 8 p.m. (CBS Sports Network).
The Tigers have won 15 straight, but it was the Herd that came the closest in that streak to toppling Memphis.
The Tigers (21-3, 10-0) pulled out a 73-72 win at the FedEx Forum.
Thundering Herd senior center Nigel Spikes expects another battle, this time at the Cam Henderson Center.
"Every time we play Memphis, it's always a good game," Spikes said. "That win (Wednesday) just helped us a lot. It'll help us get going through this next game. Hopefully, we'll capitalize on it on Saturday."
The Herd has not won consecutive games since winning three straight over Nevada, Morehead State and North Carolina-Wilmington between Nov. 24 and Dec. 1.
Marshall needed nearly all of the 40 minutes it played against Rice on Wednesday to secure a 71-70 victory.
The game featured 21 lead changes and 11 ties and the Herd finally sealed it with DeAndre Kane's only basket of the night, a cutting layup with 1:34 left after the Owls went to man-to-man defense for the first time all night. Kane was fouled on the shot, made the free throw and put the Herd up by five.
Marshall Coach Tom Herrion lauded the Herd's patience on offense, as it led to efficient and effective scoring. Marshall shot 51.1 percent against Rice, the team's third-best shooting performance of the season behind the Herd's wins over Central Florida (51.9 percent) and Nevada (51.6 percent).
There were areas of concern as well, mostly on defense.
Marshall allowed Rice to shoot 48.2 percent from the floor, nearly nine points better than the Owls' season average.
It was the sixth time in seven games an opponent has shot at least 46.8 percent from the floor against the Herd.
Junior forward Elijah Pittman said the team will need to draw energy from everywhere in the Henderson Center to fortify itself for its toughest visitor of the season.
"From the bench, from the fans, we'll need everything," Pittman said. "Just like (Memphis) needed everything there, we'll need everything here."
The Tigers watched Marshall absorb blows in Memphis that toppled it in other road games, then retaliate with shots of its own. The Herd trailed by as many as 10 at the FedEx Forum, but had four chances to tie or take the lead in the final 45 seconds.
Memphis has three players averaging double digits in scoring - junior guards Joe Jackson (13.9 points per game) and Geron Johnson (11.1 ppg) and sophomore swingman Adonis Thomas (10.9 ppg). Jackson also averages 4.8 assists per game, which ranks fifth in C-USA.
Spikes said the Herd will need to bring more energy itself as it moves from beating the worst team in C-USA to playing its best.
He said he and his teammates have to chase down every 50-50 ball and cut down on the mental errors that have hurt them, especially on the road.
"We can play with them," Spikes said. "They know that. We know that. We just have to do the little things to win games. That's what we're lacking. Hopefully we'll get it right."
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.