HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall men's basketball team isn't going to dwell on its slow start as it begins Conference USA play tonight at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
It isn't going to ignore it, either.
As much talk as there has been about a clean slate entering its 16-game conference schedule, the Herd won't discard the lessons learned in its 6-9 non-conference run.
"The non-conference schedule was tough for us, as we kind of knew it would be, with the teams we had and how many games we had back to back," freshman forward Ryan Taylor said. "It made us become a more mature team, with the close games we had."
Of the nine losses, those to Stephen F. Austin and Morehead State came in overtime. The Herd lost at Vanderbilt by two points and at Akron by one. A young team, several of whom are playing their first seasons in Division I college basketball, learned the hard way that wins don't come as easily as they might have in junior college or high school.
And the Herd's current configuration is short on experience. The senior who played significant minutes, forward Elijah Pittman, remains indefinitely suspended. Three of the roster's four juniors - guard Justin Edmonds and forwards Shawn Smith and Cheikh Sane - are junior college transfers. Only Smith and Sane are logging minutes this season.
Since Sane went down with a foot injury versus West Virginia - he missed two games, but has played ever since, and Herd Coach Tom Herrion said he's inching closer to full health - Marshall has employed a starting lineup of two freshmen and three sophomores. Freshman Kareem Canty and sophomores Chris Thomas and DeVince Boykins start at guard, while Taylor and sophomore TyQuane Goard start at forward. That starting five is 2-3 this season.
"We just know we have to battle," Canty said. "We came into the season thinking it would be easy. We're not where we're supposed to be. Everybody knows that. But coach still has faith in us. We still have faith in each other. We still believe we can compete in this conference."
That competition begins at 8 p.m. versus the Roadrunners, 4-9 on the season and losers of three of their last four. Their one win in that stretch came against NCAA Division II Cameron University. Their last game out was a 104-71 loss at Arkansas.