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.