CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- One category - and not one the Marshall men's basketball team normally has to worry about - did in the Thundering Herd on Saturday night at Louisiana Tech.
Look up and down the rest of the stat sheet and the numbers are solid. It was the Herd's 22 turnovers, including 17 in the first half, which led to a 98-77 loss in Ruston, La.
Turnovers haven't been a glaring issue for Marshall for much of this season. The Herd's worst performance came with a 26-turnover day in its overtime loss to Morehead State. Yet since then, Marshall's worst day came with 18 turnovers in a loss to Akron. The Herd (7-14, 1-5 Conference USA) nearly matched that in the first 20 minutes Saturday night.
The Bulldogs' pressure defense makes them the best turnover producers in C-USA. Louisiana Tech leads the conference in opponents' turnovers (17.1 per game), steals (9.81 per game) and turnover margin (plus-5.38). Marshall got a full dose of that defense right away, and because of it, fell behind 17-2 to start the game.
By the time Kenneth Smith's layup with 16:41 left in the first half staked the Bulldogs to that 15-point lead, Marshall already had committed six turnovers. Herd coach Tom Herrion was most disappointed in the fact that the Bulldogs' defensive prowess was no secret, Marshall's coaches had discussed it with the team since after its win Thursday over Rice, and Marshall still kept throwing the ball away.
"We gave it to them on a platter the first five minutes of the game," Herrion said after Saturday's game. "We were so weak with the ball. Careless turnovers. We knew what was coming. We spent some time on it the last two days, but obviously did a poor job of executing our game plan and taking care of the basketball."
The Herd recovered from that dismal start to make it a game again - Marshall eked out a turnover-free four minutes to cut the lead to 21-18 with 12:35 left in the half - but LTU's defense started to bear down again. The Herd committed another 11 turnovers in that 12:35, trailed by as many as 20 and went into halftime down 57-39, despite shooting 14-24 (58.3 percent) from the field.
"When we handled the pressure, we got any shot we wanted," Herrion said. "Clearly our turnovers were a huge, huge contributing factor."
Another major factor was Louisiana Tech's 3-point shooting. The Bulldogs (17-4, 5-1 C-USA) made seven of 15 from beyond the arc in the first half and nine of 24 for the game. Marshall was much better at protecting the ball in the second half, committing just five turnovers in that span, but wasn't able to cut into the Bulldogs' lead.
The Herd's turnover problems marred what otherwise were decent numbers. Marshall shot 50.9 percent from the floor (29 of 57) and 73.9 percent from the line (17 of 23). It also outrebounded Louisiana Tech 37-31, even though the Bulldogs are fifth in the conference in rebounding margin (plus-4.3) and Marshall is 14th (minus-0.3).
"We played OK," Herrion said. "I know it sounds hypocritical to a certain degree. But handing them the ball, how we turned it over against the press to start the game is so disappointing at a lot of different positions. "
The Herd's luck on the road, which flipped in Marshall's win at Rice, didn't last very long. That win over the Owls snapped a 10-game road losing streak, but the loss at LTU puts the Herd at 2-20 in its last 22 road games. Marshall returns home, where it has lost three of its last four, for a pair of games - at 8 p.m. Thursday versus Florida International and at noon Saturday against Florida Atlantic, which will be televised on Comcast Sports South.
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.r...@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.