HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - If the Marshall men's basketball team needed something to shake any early Tuesday morning cobwebs, Coach Tom Herrion was happy to oblige.
Herrion's voice often echoed through the Henderson Center as he pushed the Thundering Herd through an intense one-hour defensive workout. NCAA rules allow the team two hours a week during the summer, and Herrion has made defense top priority.
"When we're together as a team, it's strictly defense," he said.
"That's all we're doing."
In some areas, the Herd can use the work. There was no debate the team could rebound last season. It led Conference USA in rebounding and was 10th nationally in rebounding margin. Yet when it came to keeping opposing teams off the scoreboard, it was a different matter.
Marshall was next to last in the conference in scoring defense (68.1 points allowed per game) and dead last in field goal percentage defense (opponents shot 45 percent from the floor). Those marks left Marshall tied for 204th out of 338 Division I teams in scoring defense and alone at No. 256 in field goal percentage defense.
The Herd wants to make the leap from first-round NIT exit, like last season, to NCAA Tournament entrant, a spot the team hasn't reached since 1987. Junior guard DeAndre Kane, an All-Conference USA second-team pick last season, knows better defense should help get them there.
"We know guys are going to get the ball (on rebounds), but we have to step up our defense," Kane said. "Guarding the ball, picking the ball up on full-court and pick-and-roll defense, there's a lot of things we have to go over and he's going to stress that for a while."
It's not just Xs and Os for Marshall, Herrion said. The Herd will work on terminology, footwork and positioning. He also wants to see a greater commitment to defense from everyone.
"As good of a rebounding team we were and as dominant at times as we were, I was really disappointed overall when I looked back and saw some of the tape from last year," Herrion said. "We regressed as a defensive group, and that's got to be corrected. That's why we're addressing it immediately."