HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Time may be running out for the Marshall men's basketball team to make a run in Conference USA play - only 11 games remain before the conference tournament - but, at least for tonight's game against Southern Methodist University, the key could be patience.
The Thundering Herd hosts a Mustangs team at 7 p.m. that, as Coach Tom Herrion has seen on film, likes to take things slowly.
"They really run clock, go deep into the clock," Herrion said. "They run a lot of weave to kill time and then they'll run their set in the end."
Marshall (9-11, 2-3 C-USA) has prior experience against that type of offense, though the memories are not fond ones. Delaware State ground things to a halt against the Herd on Jan. 2, holding Marshall to 17 first-half points and upsetting the Herd at the Henderson Center, 53-51. So at least Marshall has an idea of what's coming and knows what it takes to stop it.
"We're going to try to pick our spots and try to create some tempo," Herrion said. "They're good at what they do, so yeah, you have to try to create tempo. You have to score the ball to get into some sort of press if you can. Pressure's good, but we have to score the ball to get into pressure.
"You've got to be patient," he continued. "You can't always impose your will, so you have to find times where hopefully we can."
The strategy hasn't worked too well for SMU (11-10, 1-5 C-USA) since the calendar turned to 2013. The Mustangs have lost three straight games and six of their last seven, and their 64-points-per-game scoring average is 254th-best in Division I.
SMU Coach Larry Brown, a Basketball Hall of Famer who won an NCAA title with Kansas and an NBA title with Detroit, relies heavily on his starting five. All five average at least 30 minutes a game, and Herrion said that, despite their record, they remain talented and dangerous. Sophomore guard Jalen Jones leads the Mustangs in scoring (14.9 points per game) and rebounding (8.1 per game), while Kansas State transfer Nick Russell is second with 13.7 points per game and leads SMU with 4.2 assists per game.
The Herd doesn't want Southern Methodist to snap its slump against it, so the team will try to snap the Mustangs out of their deliberate style and turn up the tempo. Freshman guard Tamron Manning said Marshall needs patience and persistence to do it.