TULSA, Okla. -- The pain still fresh following his team's last-second 66-64 loss to Tulane in the Conference USA tournament's first round, Marshall Coach Tom Herrion wanted to talk little about the season as a whole.
The few words he did say to encapsulate the year showed how tough it was for the entire Thundering Herd.
"It was a bittersweet ending to a frustrating season, to say the least," he said.
Many had predicted the Herd, with the vast majority of last season's NIT roster returning, would contend for the C-USA title and perhaps return to the NCAA tournament after a 25-year absence. Yet from before the first regular-season game, the Herd found many surprises - few of them pleasant - that played major factors in its 13-19 campaign.
The first surprise came when freshman Kareem Canty, a Harlem, N.Y., point guard who likely would have been Marshall's starter, was held out of Marshall's Nov. 1 exhibition game with Bluefield College due to initial eligibility concerns. The NCAA would declare Canty ineligible for the 2012-13 season two weeks later.
Marshall juggled the lineup to compensate, moving shooting guard DeAndre Kane to the point, putting D.D. Scarver in the starting lineup and increasing the responsibilities of a trio of young guards - sophomore Chris Martin and freshmen Tamron Manning and DeVince Boykins.
"It threw us for a loop a little bit," Manning said of losing Canty. "When that happened and Coach told Kane he had to run the '1,' it shifted a lot of things. Kane had to learn something new."
Kane showed quickly he had a knack for running the point. He ranked as high as third in Division I in assists per game, averaging as many as 8.5. Then came the second unwelcome surprise. Days after beating Coppin State, Marshall announced that Kane would be out indefinitely with what turned out to be a broken right hand. That absence lasted four games and the Herd went 1-3 in that span.
The team thought Kelvin Amayo, an academic non-qualifier who became eligible in the spring semester, would bolster Marshall's backcourt depth, but his Herd career lasted three games and a total of 28 minutes. He left the team in January and ultimately transferred to Iona.
Throughout the season, inconsistency plagued the Herd. Marshall won just two games away from Huntington all season. The team swept the season series with Central Florida, but lost by 28 points at Kentucky and 37 points at Ohio. Marshall lost by 56 at Southern Mississippi, then beat the Golden Eagles on Senior Night at the Henderson Center. It beat East Carolina at home by 21 and lost to the Pirates in Greenville, N.C. by nine.
Marshall also struggled defensively. The Herd was last in C-USA in scoring defense (72.9 points allowed per game) and 3-point field goal percentage defense (37.1 percent allowed) and ninth in the 12-team conference in total field goal percentage defense (44.2 percent allowed). Both inconsistency and defensive issues reared their heads in Wednesday's loss to Tulane.