Marshall basketball: Herd has high hopes at home
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- The Marshall men's basketball team's two-game road trip last weekend didn't end the way the Thundering Herd wanted. Yet that doesn't mean they're ignoring the first half of that excursion.
The Herd's win last Thursday at Rice snapped a four-game losing streak and a 10-game road losing streak. Now Marshall wants to bring some of that home for tonight's game versus Florida International.
"We should be losing very few, if any, games in this building," Marshall coach Tom Herrion said of the Cam Henderson Center. "And we have lost too many to date. Our challenge to our group coming off the heels of our trip is to protect our house. We've got to do our part. As players and coaches, now we've got to do our part."
The Herd (7-14, 1-5 Conference USA) has won just six of 10 home games this season. Its last two contests in Huntington were back-to-back losses to North Texas and Tulsa. Marshall rebounded from those setbacks with that streak-busting 73-63 win over Rice.
The components that were missing versus the Mean Green and Golden Hurricane showed up versus the Owls. Marshall shot better (45.8 percent from the floor), rebounded better (36-33 over the Owls) and kept turnovers down (10 for the game).
"It's a reference point, a teaching point where when we focus on things, when we do things like take care of the ball and outrebound them and make free throws, no matter how the opponent is, that usually puts you in the position to have success," Herrion said. "We had some of those at Louisiana Tech, but we had one glaring omission with the turnovers."
Marshall shot even better against the Bulldogs (50.9 percent for the game) and outrebounded one of the conference's better rebounding teams, 37-31. But 17 first-half turnovers and 22 for the game led to a 98-77 loss. The Panthers (11-9, 3-2 C-USA) are among the conference's better teams in steals, fourth with 6.9 per game. Herrion said Marshall will have to worry about another issue that popped up against Louisiana Tech, stopping the other team from driving to the hoop.
FIU doesn't rely much on long-distance shooting. Its 298 3-point attempts are the third-fewest in C-USA and account for 28 percent of their total attempts. In comparison, Marshall's 440 3-point attempts, the fourth-most in C-USA, account for nearly 35 percent of its total attempts.
"We've got to be able to guard and keep the ball in front," Herrion said. "We couldn't keep the ball in front the other night (against Louisiana Tech). They drove us.
"We've got to be able to contain the dribble."
That starts with containing FIU senior Tymell Murphy. The 6-foot-5 forward leads the Panthers with 16.4 points per game and is second with eight rebounds per game. He also shoots 60.1 percent from the floor, second-best in the conference. Murphy is flanked by 6-7 senior forward Rakeem Buckles, the Panther's rebounding leader (9.1 per game) and second-leading scorer (13.3 points per game), and 6-6 sophomore forward Jerome Frink.
"Murphy is really talented," Herrion said. "He's one of the best players in our conference, a 6-5 left-handed guy who scores it in, scores it out and is strong. He's dynamite. Buckles and Frink give them size and balance up front."
The Herd is focused on this weekend's slate - tonight's FIU matchup and Saturday's noon home tip versus Florida Atlantic - as its opportunity to start climbing out of the hole into which it dug itself. If Marshall wants any chance of salvaging this season, sophomore guard Tamron Manning said bolstering its home record is the place to start.
"We've got two games at home we need to win," he said. "If we get those wins, things can start compounding. The away game thing, we got that monkey off our backs. We want to put ourselves back in that middle area of the conference. Once we do that, everything else will fall into place, but we need these two at home."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.