Capital Classic: Poor foul shooting bites Marshall again
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Maybe, Marshall point guard Kareem Canty surmised, the Thundering Herd men's basketball team needs to practice its foul shooting in front of an audience.
"Maybe we just have to work on our free throws when there's a lot of people in the gym going crazy," he said following his Herd's 74-64 defeat at the hands of West Virginia in Saturday's Capital Classic at the Charleston Civic Center. "We hit them in practice, but when the game comes the fans get rowdy."
At this point, the Herd (4-6) is looking for whatever solution it can find to improve its ghastly free-throw percentage, a major factor in allowing the Mountaineers to surge ahead after trailing most of the game. Marshall's 10-for-24 performance (41.7 percent) from the line was the second-worst free-throw shooting night of the season. Only the Herd's 8-for-24 night in a loss to Stephen F. Austin was worse.
In a game where the whistles got busier in the second half, WVU ended up taking just four more free throws than Marshall. The Mountaineers, however, made 10 more.
"We lost points at the foul line," Marshall Coach Tom Herrion said, "again."
Neither team walked into the Civic Center on Saturday night a champion at the charity stripe. WVU was 234th in Division I, shooting 67.4 percent. Marshall was 339th, shooting 59.8 percent. The difference was West Virginia got better and Marshall got worse.
WVU didn't take its first lead of the game until 3:41 remained in the game and point guard Juwan Staten hit a free throw after being fouled on a made layup to put the Mountaineers ahead, 63-62. Up to that point, Marshall had plenty of opportunities at the line to extend its lead. It made six of 16 free throws in that span, part of an 8-for-18 second half.
Meanwhile, West Virginia spent the second half making 16 of 23 free throws, finishing 20-for-28 for the game.
It was frustrating, sophomore guard TyQuane Goard said, that a known problem, and a problem that the Herd has been working to solve, would flare up again at bad moment. His solution was face the dilemma head-on once again.
"It's hard," said Goard, a former George Washington High School standout who made his return to the Civic Center with an 11-point, seven-rebound performance. "I feel like everybody's got to invest more time. I missed one late. Everybody's got to invest more time, shoot more free throws, get in the gym and stay in the gym."
The Herd's free-throw rate is now 58.4 percent. As of Sunday morning, that was 344th out of the 351 teams in the rankings. Only South Carolina State, Old Dominion, Cornell, Western Illinois, Morgan State Nicholls State and the University of Central Florida are worse. Those teams have a combined record of 19-42.
Saturday's foul shooting woes sent Marshall to its fourth consecutive loss, its sixth loss in eight games and fifth loss this season away from the Cam Henderson Center. The Herd finally returns home to friendlier confines for a pair of pre-Christmas games, the first coming at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Alice Lloyd College, an NAIA school in Pippa Pass, Ky.
And in those days in between, the team must start solving its problems at the line. That's one thing that frustrated Herrion following the West Virginia loss - that the blemishes in one category erased the positives in several others. Marshall pulled down 19 offensive rebounds against the Mountaineers, recorded 10 steals and outhustled WVU for much of the game.
"We played so hard," Herrion said. "We beat ourselves tonight and we have to live with that for the next couple of days."
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.