HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Sometime old habits die hard, as they did for the Marshall men's basketball team in its season-opening 85-69 win over South Carolina State.
The Thundering Herd was one of Conference USA's most prolific 3-point shooting teams last season, hoisting 646, the fourth-most in the conference. But it was the worst at making them, last in C-USA at 30.7 percent. Against the Bulldogs on Friday, the Herd (1-0) shot 30 from beyond the arc and made just seven.
Marshall was able to overcome that 23.3 percent rate from the 3-point line with a defense that forced 18 turnovers and recorded 12 steals. And Herd Coach Tom Herrion said his group could become a good shooting team. But it wasn't Friday, and Herrion wasn't just disappointed in how threes the Herd took.
"It was when we took them," Herrion said. "We took them too quick in possessions, in my opinion. That shot will show on the third or fourth pass as it did on the first pass. And we've got guys who needed to drive and attack the zone more. We settled for too quick a shot in a possession."
While the Herd as a whole wasn't so hot from long distance, senior forward Elijah Pittman bucked that trend himself. He made five of Marshall's threes on 11 attempts, giving him a Herd career-high 31 points, his first 30-point game in a Marshall uniform. His previous best was 22 points, reached four times last season.
Freshman point guard Kareem Canty was the only other Herd player to make a three, hitting two of five. The rest of the team was 0 for 14.
The Bulldogs were playing enough zone defense where it left openings around the arc for Marshall to shoot. And Pittman said he and his teammates are confident enough to attempt them.
"We shoot a lot," he said. "We come to the gym a lot. I guess they're just taking shots that they're comfortable with, to be honest. We settled a lot for the three. I settled a lot, but when they're going in, there's nothing you can do."
Herrion feels the Herd will improve its shooting, but it will take time with a young roster. Seven of the 11 players who saw the court for Marshall were playing their first game in a Herd uniform. Marshall's next game comes Tuesday, when the Herd hosts the University of Rio Grande.
"It's experience," he said. "We have to spend a little more time with this group just talking about learning experiences and educating them."
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THE HERD football team became bowl eligible for the second time in three seasons, and a postseason berth in 2013 would be Marshall's 11th in program history and the third since playing in the 2004 Fort Worth Bowl.
Where the Herd ends up bowl-wise remains a mystery, and Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky said Saturday that there could be even more bowl choices for conference teams if enough become eligible. He was at Joan C. Edwards Stadium for Marshall's 56-14 win over the University of Alabama at Birmingham.