HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The goals for the Marshall men's basketball team have become immediate. The cliche of not looking past the next opponent has become more than just words.
"We need a win," said Marshall coach Tom Herrion, whose team has lost its last four games and 11 of its last 13. "We need to get our first win in the conference."
Marshall's opponent tonight at 8, Rice, is in the same boat. Both the Herd (6-13) and the Owls (5-12) are 0-4 in Conference USA and share last place among the conference's 16 teams. Yet that's where most of the comparisons end.
Style-wise, the Herd and Owls are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Marshall is second in Conference USA in possessions per game. Its 74.1 possession average is second only to Louisiana Tech's 74.3. Rice is 13th among C-USA's 16 teams, averaging 66.9 possessions per game.
That's played a part in both teams' offensive production. Marshall is third in the conference averaging 78.1 points per game. Rice is last, averaging 64.2.
"They'll control tempo to a certain extent," Herrion said. "They're a mid-to-slow-paced team. They're very skilled and very deliberate."
Rice coach Ben Braun's strategy hasn't resulted in an Owls win since Dec. 19, when Rice beat NAIA Northwood University. Since then, the Owls have lost seven straight, five of those by double digits. Still, the Herd must prepare for a philosophy much different than its strengths - speed, athleticism and running the floor.
Junior forward Shawn Smith said that, despite what it might face, the team must continue to do what it does best.