Marshall basketball: Rookies see plenty of action in exhibition
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - So many of the names on the Marshall men's basketball team's roster are different from last year. But Thundering Herd Coach Tom Herrion wasn't bashful in getting those first-year players plenty of floor time Monday night.
"I'm called the Kindergarten Cop," Herrion said with a smile, "and I love my team."
Five Thundering Herd players, led by Kareem Canty and Shawn Smith's 15 points each, scored in double figures as Marshall weathered some early struggles to run away from Concord University 94-60 in the Herd's lone exhibition game of the season.
Marshall won't take the floor again until Friday, Nov. 8, when it opens the regular season with a 7 p.m. contest versus South Carolina State at the Henderson Center.
The Herd did a little bit of everything against its Mountain East Conference opponent Monday. Marshall's defensive pressure led to fast-break opportunities, the Herd hit six 3-pointers and got 43 points from its bench.
"I thought the positives far outweighed any negatives," Herrion said. "I got a taste for our style of play. I was just so pleased with how hard we played. We played so hard, and that's got to be our fabric and our DNA."
It took the Herd a little while to reach a comfortable lead, as the preseason stumbles reared their heads. Alley-oop attempts sailed high and wide. Ball-handling was sloppy, with nine Marshall turnovers in the first half. The Herd struggled in the first 20 minutes both from the 3-point line (2-for-7) and free throw line (8-for-17).
Halfway through the first, though, Marshall started to pull away. The first spark came from Ryan Taylor, who scored six straight points in about a minute to turn a 13-13 tie into a 19-13 Herd lead. Then, after Marshall had staked a 31-21 lead with about four minutes left, Tamron Manning scored seven straight points for the Herd, with his 3-pointer putting Marshall ahead 38-26.
That basket was the start of a 9-0 Herd run to end the half. Marshall went into the locker room leading 44-26.
While Marshall started ironing out its shooting issues - the Herd made just five of its first 13 first-half shots before making 12 of its next 19 - its defense was solid throughout. Long arms disrupted passing lanes and led to eight first-half steals and 12 for the game. Open looks were hard to come by for Concord.
And as rough as Marshall had it on the free throw line, the Mountain Lions had it even worse. Concord made just two of its first nine from the stripe and seven of 17 for the game.
Concord's A.J. Williams scored the first basket of the second half, but the Herd scored seven straight in retaliation and led by as many as 40. Sophomore newcomer Chris Thomas punctuated the game in the middle of the second with an explosive drive and dunk.
"We played as a team," Taylor said. "We didn't really care about who scored. We weren't selfish with the ball. We went out there, we had fun and we enjoyed it."
Thomas was one of three Herd players, along with Taylor and Elijah Pittman, who scored 14 points. Taylor and TyQuane Goard paced Marshall with 10 rebounds each. The Herd outrebounded the Mountain Lions 51-28.
Ten of the 12 players who saw the floor Monday played between 15 and 26 minutes. Herrion said that interchanging could be common this season, that he has a "beginning five" rather than a "starting five." Canty, Pittman, Taylor, DeVince Boykins and Cheikh Sane began the game for the Herd on Monday, though Herrion said that combination could be different next game.
Team chemistry is crucial in those situations, but Smith said the Herd already was well on its way to developing it.
"We all got used to each other in the summer pickup (games)," he said. "We already had that bond. We knew what each other can do. It was an easy adjustment."
Ali Barnes led Concord with 15 points, making four of six of his 3-pointers. Grant Dickinson scored 13.
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.