Marshall basketball: Herd finds different ways to lose on the road
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Still unable to solve the conundrum of winning away from home, the Marshall men's basketball team returned to Huntington to see if it can turn things around on the Cam Henderson Center floor.
Since beating Western Kentucky on Nov. 26, the Herd (6-11, 0-2 Conference USA) has played just three home games, sandwiching a Dec. 21 loss to Arkansas State between a Dec. 17 win over Alice Lloyd and a Jan. 5 win over Presbyterian.
Marshall's first C-USA road trip of the season ended with a 90-81 loss to the University of Texas at San Antonio and a 66-56 loss to the University of Texas at El Paso. In trying to put a finger on the source of his team's struggles, Herd coach Tom Herrion realizes that finger doesn't often land in the same spot.
"Losing stinks," Herrion said. "This isn't fun. This isn't fun for anybody. What frustrates you the most is that it seems like, from game to game, it's one (different) thing that leads to our demise.
"Against San Antonio, I thought our defense was really, really poor," he continued. "(Saturday) night, I thought we defended well enough to beat UTEP. The zone was really good to us. But I didn't like how we played on offense. I thought our shot selection was poor."
The Herd allowed UTSA to make 30 of 53 shots (56.6 percent) and seven of nine from 3-point range (77.8 percent). And while Marshall allowed UTEP to shoot just 46.8 percent from the field (22 for 47) and 35.7 percent from 3 (5 of 14), the Herd fared even worse offensively. It made just 19 of 61 shots (31.1 percent) from the field and five of 21 (23.8 percent) from 3.
If there was any consistent struggle, it came at the free throw line. The Herd made just 13 of 23 free throws (56.5 percent) against UTEP. Only two players - Ryan Taylor at 3-for-4 and Chris Thomas at 3-for-3 - shot better than 50 percent from the line Saturday night. It also struggled from the line Thursday versus UTSA, making 17 of 29 (58.6 percent).
And Herrion thinks there's a good chance that his young team - all but two who played versus UTEP were sophomores or younger - could get even younger. Senior Yous Mbao, who has not played since a five-minute stint versus Akron, may not be able to come back from his knee injury.
"I know there are some more tests earlier this week to confirm and diagnose it a little more clearly, in terms of where it's at, but I don't have a lot of faith or hope right now that he's going to be able to get back to a level where he can contribute."
If Mbao can't play, that means four members of the opening day roster - Mbao, senior forward Elijah Pittman (indefinite suspension), junior guard Justin Edmonds (redshirt to rehab ACL injury) and junior center J.P. Kambola (eligibility issue) - are unavailable.
Herrion still has faith in his young roster and figures the time spent in Huntington - the team hosts North Texas on Thursday and Tulsa on Saturday and doesn't leave town again until the next weekend - will restore some energy. But Herrion also said the coaches and players have to make the most of these days at home.
"At the end of the day, I have to do a better job and the players have to do a better job," he said. "We have 14 conference games left and, in my opinion, it will start to become even more wide open."
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WALK-ON Austin Loop will not be a walk-on this semester. According to Herd players' Twitter feeds and confirmed by a Daily Mail source, the 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman guard earned a scholarship.
The Herd had a vacant scholarship to use, which it was able to give to the South Webster, Ohio native. Loop has played in 11 games this season, averaging 6.0 minutes and 3.5 points per game.
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.