Marshall basketball: Second half surge lifts Herd past Presbyterian
HUNTINGTON - Marshall point guard Kareem Canty often says that he never sleeps well after losses. He and the rest of the Thundering Herd men's basketball team likely had a much more peaceful slumber Sunday night.
The Herd, which had one just one game and none versus non-NAIA opponents since Nov. 26, pulled away from the Blue Hose in the second half to win 77-49 and snap a three-game losing streak Sunday afternoon at the Cam Henderson Center.
It's a boost the Herd (6-9) craved as it entered Conference USA play at the University of Texas at San Antonio on Thursday.
"To say that was needed would be one of my bigger understatements in my three-and-a-half years here," Marshall Coach Tom Herrion said. "We needed to taste victory in the worst way, with this particular group, at this time of year, through all our frustrations, tribulations, what we've had from non-conference to this point."
Marshall had lost in about every possible way during the slump - giving up a lead it held for more than 36 minutes against West Virginia, getting outscored by 22 in the second half against South Carolina or watching a potential game-winning layup hit every part of the rim before bouncing out against Akron.
Freshman Ryan Taylor recorded his fourth double-double of the season, leading Marshall with 18 points and 12 rebounds, with 12 points and seven rebounds coming as Marshall blew past Presbyterian.
The Big South-member Blue Hose (4-11) hung around near the start of the second half, trailing just 42-38 with 15:05 left in the game. But back-to-back Marshall put-back dunks swung the momentum decidedly in the Herd's favor.
First, forward Shawn Smith charged along the left baseline to grab a missed Chris Thomas 3-pointer and slam it home. Then it was Thomas' turn following a Smith miss, with the sophomore soaring in from the same side for his own dunk. The lead grew to 46-38 after those two jams and exploded after that.
As much as any offensive spark led to Marshall outscoring Presbyterian by 27 points in the second half, ball security was just as important, Taylor said.
"Less turnovers," he said. "We had nine turnovers in the first half and in the second half, we had two. Once we stopped turning the ball over, we got their zone (defense) to move, we got easy shots, we got put-backs, we crashed the offensive glass with two highlight dunks."
Marshall's improved glasswork played a major part as well.
In its last two losses, the Herd was outrebounded by 17 against South Carolina and by 13 against Akron, giving up a total of 38 offensive rebounds in those contests. Marshall outrebounded Presbyterian 50-32, pulled down 20 offensive boards and allowed the Blue Hose just 12.
Sunday's halftime score gave no indication of blowout that evolved. Marshall had pulled ahead 24-17 on TyQuane Goard's layup with 6:08 remaining, yet Presbyterian was able to chip away at that lead as the Herd made just two of its final 11 shots of the half. The Blue Hose got 12 first-half points from leading scorer Jordan Downing to head to the locker room down just 29-28.
Marshall ratcheted up its defensive pressure in the second half, especially on Downing, who made just two of six shots from the floor in that span and ended with 18 points and seven rebounds for the game.
"I thought we wore them down," Herrion said. "I thought we were in better shape. Our conditioning was really good. I thought the press bothered them at times. Even when they had some open looks, they fell short."
Taylor was one of four Herd double-digit scorers. Smith added 16, while Goard and Kareem Canty each added 11. Cheikh Sane scored just two points, but pulled down 10 rebounds and blocked three shots in 17 minutes. William Truss was the only other double-digit scorer for Presbyterian, finishing with 13 points.
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.