Marshall basketball: Winning formula not there for Herd
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall men's basketball team has a week until its next game. For freshman point guard Kareem Canty, it'll be anything but a break.
"I know I'm not going home," Canty said after the Thundering Herd's 83-82 loss Saturday to Arkansas State. "I'm staying here and going to the gym. I don't want to go home and get out of shape and then come back knowing I have to play big minutes. So I'll be out here at the gym."
The week will be spent looking for answers and the formula to win consistently again before the Herd (5-7) visits South Carolina on Dec. 30. With its loss to the Red Wolves on Saturday, Marshall has dropped five out of its last six games and five straight to Division I opponents.
For the last two seasons, Marshall has entered its Christmas break on a sour note. Last year, a senior-laden team spent that time licking its wounds after a 28-point shellacking at Kentucky. This year, a group made mostly of freshmen and sophomores staged two rallies from double-digit deficits, but couldn't find a way to get over the hump.
Consistency is something Marshall Coach Tom Herrion has been looking for this season, but hasn't found. It wasn't there versus Arkansas State, either.
The Herd fell behind early 19-5, but recovered to pull into a 25-25 tie. Thanks to 10 first-half 3-pointers by the Red Wolves, the Herd entered halftime down 47-31.
What frustrated Herrion most about ASU's 10-for-19 start from beyond the arc was that Marshall entered the game allowing opponents to shoot just 27.4 percent from 3-point range, second best in Conference USA.
"To give up 10 3s in the first half is just mind-boggling to me, mind-boggling," he said. "It's 30 points. I don't know if we've had anybody make 10 3s in a game against us. We've got to find some consistency."
Arkansas State led by as many as 18 in the second half, but the Herd was able to shut down the Red Wolves' outside shooting for a time and Ryan Taylor's 3-pointer with 41 seconds left knotted the game at 79. But one more timely ASU 3-pointer, the team's 12th of the night, kept Marshall at bay.
The Herd could point to its youth as a reason for its inconsistency. Junior center Cheikh Sane, junior J.P. Kambola (eligibility issue), junior college transfer guard Justin Edmonds (redshirting to recover from ACL surgery) and senior forward Elijah Pittman (indefinite suspension) weren't in uniform Saturday night.
Yet Herrion wasn't going to let the team or himself dwell on its inexperience.
"There's no upperclassmen walking through that door, so grow up," he said. "I am not using that as an excuse and I will not let them use that as an excuse. We have more than enough. Every day, every practice, every game, they become less and less of an inexperienced team. You gain experience with every game. That is not an excuse that will be tolerated in my program."
Marshall returns to the land of the major conferences on Dec. 30, visiting its second SEC team this season in the Gamecocks. On top of South Carolina and Vanderbilt, the Herd also visited a Big Ten team (Penn State) and played a Big 12 team on a neutral site (West Virginia).
Canty, who led the Herd with 22 points against Arkansas State, said Marshall must maintain its confidence and its young players must continue to mature if it wants to play to its potential.
"It's just us believing, knowing we can win the game," Canty said. "We have heart. We know we can win. We just have to keep learning and watching film, and keep trusting Coach and, hopefully by conference, we can turn this thing around."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.