HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall men's basketball team's Saturday in the paint versus Middle Tennessee wasn't about what was. It was about what could have been.
The Thundering Herd outscored the Blue Raiders in the post, but MT did enough to disrupt Marshall's point production down low to pull out a 56-53 win and continue the Herd's woes in trying to score close to the basket.
Herd coach Tom Herrion bemoaned his team's inability to finish around the basket in the game before, a 68-62 loss to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. While Marshall got better at getting to the basket as the game went on, Herrion still wasn't satisfied with his team's overall performance.
"I thought, again, we gave up so many points early in the game around the basket," Herrion said. "They were good drives, either blocked or misses."
The Herd took 17 shots around the basket in the first half. Eleven of them missed the mark. Five of those were blocked layups. The Herd made just nine of 29 first-half shots (31 percent), yet still trailed by just two points at halftime, 27-25.
Marshall did a better job inside in the second half, making nine of 13 around the basket to end the game outscoring the Blue Raiders 24-16 in the paint. Yet it wasn't enough. The short baskets the Herd couldn't convert in the first half came back to haunt them when MT emerged from its 3-point shooting funk.
Middle Tennessee erased Marshall's late seven-point lead with three consecutive 3-pointers to take a 51-49 advantage. And while the Herd pulled into a 53-53 tie with 54 seconds left, MT's final 3-pointer, a Jaqawn Raymond dagger with 19 seconds left, sent Marshall to its fifth loss in its last six games. The Herd (9-19, 3-19 Conference USA), with three regular-season games to go, has matched its loss total from last season.
And it left Herrion thinking about what could have been.
"You've got to put the ball in the basket," he said. "That's probably as deceiving, that 38 percent (Herd shooting) ... if we made layups and easy scores, it's a 45 or 47-percent field goal day for us, easy."
Inside scoring hasn't always been easy for Marshall, a team still in search of a consistent scoring presence in the low post. The Herd's best post player, freshman forward Ryan Taylor, has spent plenty of time at long range. He's taken eight 3-pointers in the last two games, making just two.