Marshall basketball: Herd seeks redemption at Conference USA tournament
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- By the time the halftime buzzer sounded during Marshall's first meeting with Tulane, the Thundering Herd found itself in a pretty deep hole.
The Herd's numbers improved in the second half of that 91-75 loss, but it wasn't enough to bounce back from a dismal initial 20 minutes.
Marshall has a chance at redemption at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, when the ninth-seeded Herd plays the eighth-seeded Green Wave in the Conference USA tournament.
And the Herd will take the lessons learned - mainly of what not to do from that first half - to heart in the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.
If Marshall (13-18, 6-10) wants a postseason life past this week, it will have to. Senior center Nigel Spikes said the first lesson was coming out of the gate with more energy.
"We're going to go in and play harder and our effort is going to be a lot better," Spikes said. "We're going to play very desperately."
Halfway through the first half, the Green Wave (18-13, 6-10) led Marshall by 12. The Herd's deficit stayed around that total until 3:11 remained in the half.
From there, Tulane sprinted to the halftime buzzer on a 15-2 run, and Marshall walked into the locker room trailing by its widest margin of the game, 59-35.
"In all honesty, when we played down there, they kind of abandoned their normal scheme," Marshall Coach Tom Herrion said. "We had way too many breakdowns. There were breakdowns in a lot of areas."
Many of them came on defense, especially in the first half. At halftime, the Green Wave shot 50 percent from the 3-point line (8 for 16) and overall (17 for 34).
Tulane had outrebounded Marshall 26-18 in that span and committed just two turnovers to Marshall's nine.
The Green Wave's numbers came a little closer to earth by the end of the game, shooting 46.8 percent from the floor and 44 percent from 3, but it was enough to beat Marshall handily and show a balanced offense.
Tulane is a middle-of-the-conference-pack team from beyond the arc, shooting 34.8 percent for the season. It also features junior forward Josh Davis, who leads the conference in rebounding (10.3 per game) and is third in scoring (17.5 points per game).
Herrion said Tulane is a challenge to guard because of its ability to drive to the hoop, and Davis is a shining example of that.
"He's been very effective in the conference," Herrion said. "He drives it as a post guy, and he gets his back to the basket and gets to the free throw line. He can drive, he can rebound really well and he gives them a post presence."
Spikes said Davis' style is becoming more popular among college basketball's post players, but wasn't something Marshall's had to deal with too much during conference play this season.
"He can start from the perimeter and work his way down into the post," Spikes said. "You don't run into too many post players in Conference USA doing it."
Davis isn't Tulane's only scoring threat. Sophomore guard Ricky Tarrant is seventh in the league in scoring, averaging 16.1 points per game. Marshall retaliates with a balanced scoring attack.
The Herd has four players averaging double figures, including two in the conference's top 10 - sixth-ranked Elijah Pittman (16.3 points per game) and 10th-ranked DeAndre Kane (14.9 points per game).
Yet Marshall will need a little more scoring balance than it saw Saturday in an 86-79 loss to East Carolina. Robert Goff scored a career-high 27 points, while Pittman scored 21 and Kane scored 20. But only three other Herd players scored a point and none of them scored more than Dennis Tinnon's six.
Marshall's struggles have put the team in a predicament where it's win or go home until next season. Still, the Herd was playing for C-USA's tournament title and its automatic NCAA tournament berth just last season. Spikes said that experience, and an unwillingness for their season to end, will drive the players this week.
"If you don't want to go home early, you've really got to step it up," Spikes said. "If you're a senior, that one loss is really scary. As seniors and with the guys who were here last year, that's where our desperation's going to come.
"We know what it's like to get there," he added. "We have to stick together and do it."
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.