HUNTINGTON - Moral victories are useless when, as in the case of the Marshall men's basketball team, actual victories are so crucial.
The Thundering Herd erased a 19-point second-half deficit and pulled back into a tie with the University of Alabama at Birmingham on Saturday night. But in the final minutes, the Herd reverted back to the off-target crew it was when it slid into that hole in the first place, ultimately losing to UAB, 52-48.
Marshall made it a game in the final minutes, but Marshall Coach Tom Herrion found no satisfaction in that comeback. The Herd still is guaranteed a sub-.500 regular-season record.
"Zero," Herrion said before standing up from in front of the media room microphones.
Marshall (12-16, 5-8 Conference USA) has three games left in its regular-season schedule, a home game with Southern Mississippi sandwiched in between contests at Houston and East Carolina. Any postseason hopes likely will come from a deep C-USA Tournament run. And that means the Herd must spend the week fixing the errors that have kept it from winning consecutive games since the beginning of December.
The Herd could start with its shooting. Three days after its best performance of the season - hitting 54.2 percent in its first road win of the season at the University of Central Florida - Marshall suffered its worst. The Herd shot 15 for 57 from the floor (26.3 percent), 3 for 26 from 3-point range (11.5 percent) and 15 for 26 from the free throw line (57.7 percent). In missing a staggering 42 shots, the Herd missed 19 in a row between the final minutes of the first half and the first few minutes of the second, and didn't score a single point for an 8:12 span.
"We missed every conceivable shot," Herrion said. "We missed point-blank layups, we missed 3s, we missed mid-range shots and we missed 11 free throws.
"Tonight was a glaring example of when the ball doesn't go in, you have to find a way," Herrion added.
It looked like Marshall might have found that winning comeback formula early in the second half. When Elijah Pittman hit the Herd's first 3-pointer of the game (after 15 straight misses from beyond the arc), that sparked a massive rally. Marshall trailed UAB by 19 before that basket, and when Nigel Spikes made a mid-range jumper with 2:51 to go, the game was tied at 46. The Herd was buoyed by a defense that forced the Blazers to shoot four for 21 from the floor and commit seven turnovers in that span.
But the Herd went cold again when good shooting was needed most. Following that Spikes jumper, Marshall went 0 for 4 from the floor, all 3-pointers, for the rest of the game. The Herd had a chance to tie with five seconds left after DeAndre Kane stole a UAB inbounds pass, but Tamron Manning's 3-pointer fell short.