HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - There are just two members of the Marshall men's basketball team's active roster who were there for last season's game at Southern Mississippi - and that may not be a bad thing.
That means most of the current group wasn't around to experience one of the most lopsided losses in Thundering Herd history, a 102-46 shellacking where the Marshall trailed by 40 with six minutes to go in the first half.
The Herd (8-15, 2-6 Conference USA) returns to Hattiesburg, Miss., tonight at 9:30 (CBS Sports Network) to face a Golden Eagles team that's playing even better than it was for last year's tilt in Reed Green Coliseum. Southern Miss is 19-3, 6-1 in conference and has lost just once since Dec. 18.
Yet while most of the current Herd wasn't there for that pummeling, it also wasn't there for the rematch in Huntington, where Marshall pulled out an 88-84 win that likely dashed Southern Miss' hopes for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid last season.
"I'm not sure how much of a reference point either one of those games are," Herrion said. "Obviously, we recognize that they're in first place in the conference and playing at a high level. We know we've got to go in and play really well in a lot of areas."
Marshall has to figure out a way to counteract the Golden Eagles' experience, one of the key components in their run this season. Southern Miss' top six scorers, led by senior point guard Neil Watson (12.2 points per game), are either juniors or seniors. And Herrion says USM coach Donnie Tyndall employs an aggressive zone defense that gives opponents fits.
The Golden Eagles allow the fewest points (61.7 per game) and the fewest rebounds (28.4 per game) in the conference and they sit in second place in C-USA in steals at 8.64 per game. As opposed to USM, experience is not on Marshall's side. With just one senior on the current roster, the Herd is among the youngest, if not the youngest roster in Division I.
"We've faced that all year," Herrion said. "Every game is like that, to a certain extent. This team happens to have an abundance of experience and an abundance of older guys. We just continue to gain experience with a younger group. We've been in different venues and different situations and we have to respond now."
That one senior on the Herd roster, center Yous Mbao, hasn't played since the Akron loss due to a knee injury. The only Marshall players who will suit up for Friday's game that were even on the roster last year are sophomores Tamron Manning and DeVince Boykins. And only Manning played last year in Hattiesburg, going scoreless in 18 minutes. J.P. Kambola played as well last year, but hasn't played at all this year as he continues to deal with an eligibility issue.
Even that limited experience gives Manning some talking points when he discusses with his less experienced teammates what to expect against the Golden Eagles.
"They really turn up the pressure when they play at home," Manning said. "They like when the fans get behind them and they like to run for 3s instead of layups to get the lead up. I'll just tell (my team) that you have to stay poised. (USM is) a lot like Louisiana Tech in the sense that they're going to come after you to create turnovers.
"We've got to stay poised," he added. "If they get a little lead, we can't let them turn that into a big lead."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.r...@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.