Marshall basketball: Herd faces challenging visit to Vanderbilt
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- The road gets no smoother for the Marshall men's basketball team.
Following the Thundering Herd's 88-78 loss at East Tennessee State last Saturday, the team heads out of Huntington again to visit Vanderbilt at 8 p.m. tonight at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn. That continues a four-game streak of contests away from the Cam Henderson Center -- a Dec. 7 game at Penn State and the annual Capital Classic at the Civic Center on Dec. 14 follow.
The task for the Herd (4-3) is to play significantly better on the road, where Marshall has suffered two of its three losses. What bothered Marshall Coach Tom Herrion after the ETSU game was that his team didn't build off of a solid comeback win at home versus Western Kentucky.
"I don't think we got better between Western Kentucky and East Tennessee State," Herrion said. "That's what probably disappoints me the most."
Sophomore guard Tamron Manning said Herrion wasn't the only one frustrated by the step back the team took versus the Buccaneers.
"After Western Kentucky, we felt that was the turn in the right direction," he said. "And then, to go and lose at East Tennessee State, that was a big disappointment. But I think if we bounce back with these next couple of games, it'll be a great way to bounce back."
Herrion feels that rebound will come if the Herd rededicates itself to strong defense. ETSU made 30 of 56 shots (53.6 percent) against Marshall's defense and the Herd never led after the 14:07 mark of the first half, though it was able to cut a 16-point lead to two in the second half.
While Marshall's offense played its part in those struggles - the Herd shot 30 3-pointers and made six while making just 18 of 35 free throws - Herrion said defense needs to be the team's focus. He's said through the start of this season that Marshall forcing turnovers will allow its athletic roster to dominate in the open court.
"We have to embrace and understand what our ingredients for success are, night in and night out," Herrion said. "It's got to be consistent defense. We didn't guard very well against East Tennessee State. Our offense contributed to that mightily. We were really impatient and shot it really quick against the zone. We didn't attack it, until the second half, very well."
The Commodores sport the same 4-3 record entering tonight's game, but their losses came at the hands of the Big East (Butler and Providence) and the Big 12 (Texas). The Herd has fallen to the Ohio Valley Conference (Morehead State), the Southland (Stephen F. Austin) and the Atlantic Sun (ETSU). Vanderbilt features a trio of double-digit scorers - sophomore guard Eric McClellan (17.6 points per game), senior forward Rod Odom (13.3 ppg) and senior guard Kyle Fuller (10.4 ppg).
The Herd is familiar with McClellan. The transfer from Tulsa, who sat out last season, scored a career-high 25 points in 46 minutes in the Golden Hurricane's 105-100 triple-overtime loss to Marshall in the Conference USA tournament quarterfinals in 2012.
Herrion said the Commodores' coach, Kevin Stallings, will have his team ready.
"This might be one of the most underrated coaches in all of college basketball, on a national level," Herrion said. "He doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves for what he's done at Vanderbilt."
The Herd had four days to recover from the ETSU loss, and Manning said the team needed to take advantage of all of them. The space between the Vanderbilt and Penn State games are pretty narrow.
"In between those games, we don't have a lot of time to practice," he said. "It's going to be big that we're focused, we're tuned in and we're clicking."
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.