www.charlestondailymail.com Marshall Sports http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2015, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Marshall men visit Southern Miss on Thursday http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150128/DM03/150129164 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150128/DM03/150129164 Wed, 28 Jan 2015 23:08:53 -0500 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall's men's basketball team found itself in a position it has craved for months but wasn't able to reach - preparing for a game following a win.

Before the Thundering Herd's upset last Saturday of the University of Texas at El Paso, the last time Marshall enjoyed that spot was following its Dec. 16 win over Division II King University. Herd coach Dan D'Antoni said the energy shown in Wednesday morning's practice had been there even through the team's nine-game losing streak. Yet he didn't want to diminish the importance of snapping that streak.

"They've been pretty good all the time," he said. "But it always helps to win. It's always easier to play after a win than it is after a loss. That's kind of a given."

The Herd (5-15, 1-6 Conference USA) will see how easy it could be when it visits Southern Mississippi at 8 p.m. Thursday.

Junior guard Justin Edmonds said that win over the Miners gave the Herd a jolt that made for better practices since then.

"We're coming out here and paying more attention to detail," Edmonds said. "I think the game Saturday helped us mentally, with our focus and things like that."

He said it also provided a psychological boost. In those nine straight losses - and 15 straight against Division I opponents - Marshall had plenty of close calls. There were games the team clawed back into contention, yet faded at the end. There were games it held comfortable leads and watched those leads disappear.

By beating a UTEP team on the top end of the C-USA standings, Edmonds said, it gave the team proof that the months of adapting itself to first-year coach D'Antoni's new system led to actual progress.

"We all felt like it was a long time coming," Edmonds said, "with the past games, we've always been within three or up five or something and lost the lead or make a couple mistakes. Saturday's game felt like we finally knew what it took to win, to pull it out."

The Herd will see if it can maintain that momentum against the Golden Eagles (6-12, 1-6 C-USA). D'Antoni sees plenty of similarities between the Herd and USM, which share last place in the conference standings.

"They're young like we are," he said. "They went through a lot of personnel losses like we did. They're very similar to us. They may be a little better athletically than we are, but I still like our ball movement and our pace."

Southern Miss, which snapped a nine-game losing streak of its own with a 75-71 overtime win at North Texas, lost all five starters from last year's NIT team. It also lost coach Donnie Tyndall, who left for Tennessee, and brought Doc Sadler in to replace him.

The Golden Eagles also lost the opportunity to compete in the 2015 postseason. That was a self-imposed punishment USM announced last week as an investigation continues into possible rule violations related to improper financial aid to players. That postseason ban includes the conference tournament, which means Marshall has to finish ahead of just one of the 14 other eligible teams to make it to Birmingham, Ala.

Redshirt sophomore guard Matt Bingaya leads Southern Miss in both scoring (14.1 points per game) and rebounding (5.6 per game). Fifth-year senior guard Chip Armelin averages 14.0 points per game.

As invigorating as that win in the Cam Henderson Center was, Edmonds said the Herd is fully aware that it needs that success to transfer to the road.

"We need road wins," he said. "It's always easier to play at home. Playing on the road is tough, especially with our schedule. So we want to get some road wins."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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Chuck McGill: From Huntington to Heat, Whiteside flourishes in NBA http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150127/DM03/150129310 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150127/DM03/150129310 Tue, 27 Jan 2015 18:13:30 -0500 There is a frenzy these days around former Marshall star and current Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside - call it "Hassanity" - as he transforms from offseason YMCA hoopster to potential NBA star.

"It's been crazy," Whiteside said during a phone call Monday afternoon. "It's been a whirlwind, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of growing pains.

"It's been a journey."

I'll say.

Before his breakout performance this month, which was enhanced by Sunday's 14-point, 13-rebound, 12-block stat line against the Chicago Bulls, Whiteside was seen as a talent unfulfilled, a former second-round draft pick and world traveler, hopping from league to league around the globe.

Check out this list: Sacramento Kings, Reno Bighorns, Sioux Falls Skyforce, Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Amchit Club, Sichuan Blue Whales, Al Mouttahed Tripoli, Jiangsu Tongxi, Memphis Grizzlies, Iowa Energy and Miami Heat.

That is Whiteside's circuitous journey since he departed Marshall after the 2009-10 season. Before this season, he'd played only 19 games in the NBA.

Now, check out this list: Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O'Neal, David Robinson, Dikembe Mutombo, Mark Eaton, Shawn Bradley and Hassan Whiteside.

Those are the NBA players who have recorded a triple-dozen: 12 points, 12 rebounds, 12 blocks.

The 25-year-old Whiteside is a long way from that North Carolina Y, the teams in Lebanon and China and the NBA's developmental league.

"I never lost confidence in myself or my abilities," he said. "I just kept a positive attitude going forward and been kind of self-driven. It's a belief in myself."

Whiteside was signed by the Grizzlies on Sept. 25 and waived Oct. 22. He signed again with the Grizzlies on Nov. 19 and lasted one day on the roster. He finally landed with the Heat on Nov. 24, but played only two minutes and missed two free throws before he was assigned to the Iowa Energy of the NBDL.

It wasn't until the first game after Christmas last month that Whiteside's playing time saw an uptick with the Heat. He logged 16 minutes against the Grizzlies on Dec. 27, but he scored only two points, grabbed seven rebounds and collected five fouls. He played 18 minutes with eight points and seven rebounds the next game, and logged 20 minutes with six points, seven rebounds and three blocks the game after that.

In January, Whiteside has turned into one of the league's best stories. This month he has averaged 12.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.0 blocks in 21.7 minutes per game. He had a 23-point, 16-rebound effort against the Clippers and a double-double (10 points, 12 boards) against the Warriors before Hassanity went up another level Sunday.

Not only did he record a triple-double in only 24 minutes against one of the NBA's best teams, he broke Alonzo Mourning's Heat record for blocked shots in a single game, and then took social media by storm in his post-game interview.

"I'm just trying to really get my NBA2K rating up," Whiteside said during a national television interview.

Whiteside became a trending topic on the social-media website Twitter. Deadspin created multiple posts about Whiteside, and included videos with all his blocked shots against the Bulls.

The 2K Sports franchise then honored the request and gave Whiteside a significant ratings bump on the popular video game. Whiteside said he received as much response about the video-game comment as his triple-double.

"I've been hearing a lot about both of them," he said.

And, it seems, we'll be hearing a lot about Whiteside for a long time. This is what was expected for the 7-footer when he left Marshall, where he set the Conference USA single-season record for blocked shots, and was named the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year in his one season.

The "Hassanity" will die down eventually, but he believes his basketball journey, the growth and maturity he gained along the way, will help him stick in the league for a long time.

"I don't get too high or too low," he said. "I know every day is not going to be a great game. I probably won't block every shot, I will probably get dunked on. It's not all going to be good."

For now, though, it certainly is. It has been nearly five full years since Whiteside left the Marshall campus to pursue his a professional basketball career. It has been only a few months since Whiteside would work out and play pick-up hoops at a YMCA in his home state of North Carolina, far away from the bright lights of the NBA.

"I thought this was possible," Whiteside said, "I just didn't know how long it would take."

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Derek Redd: Hard work doesn't deter Herd's Mijovic http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150126/DM03/150129384 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150126/DM03/150129384 Mon, 26 Jan 2015 21:49:47 -0500 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Milan Mijovic grabs the basketball, barrels through the lane and slams home a one-handed dunk. That's not an uncommon scene on a college basketball practice court. For the Serbian native, that simple move was a foreign concept just this August.

Both Mijovic and coach Dan D'Antoni would admit that the freshman continues to be a work in progress. The key word, though, is progress. While Mijovic has plenty of work to do to become a more regular member of the Thundering Herd's rotation, he's not afraid of putting in that work.

That, D'Antoni said, is one of the main reasons he brought the 6-foot-9 forward over from Europe.

"You see him just go through drills and its a graphic difference," he said of Mijovic's evolution. "I chose him because he worked hard and he played hard easily. So I'm not surprised because I thought he would."

Playing hard easily, in D'Antoni's mind, is as much of a talent as a monstrous vertical leap or eagle-eye accuracy from 3-point range. There are plenty of freakish physical talents in the sport, but some of them try to just get by on those talents alone. In some environments it might work, and that athlete can out-athlete everyone around him.

But what about when the gap in athleticism narrows, and physical gifts aren't enough? Then that player has to bear down and work on his game, even when he doesn't want to.

Mijovic knows he wasn't blessed with those attributes, so he knows maximum effort is the key to his development.

"I think it's most important," Mijovic said. "I play with heart. I want the best for me. When I give the best, everything is better for everybody else because I give the best from me."

During one recent practice, Mijovic worked until his tank was empty, pushing himself up and down the court during the scrimmage. As soon as the whistle blew for a break, he bent over, his chest heaving to draw in air.

As exhausted as he was, he walked over to D'Antoni during that break time and talked strategy until it was time to take the court again. And when practice was over and the court cleared out, his drills continued. He jogged to a basket and started hopping up to touch the rim, over and over again. For Mijovic, that's not something extra. It's a necessity.

"It's something I do every night," he said. "You need to eat. You need to take a shower. It's something I need to do, no excuse. I'm tired, but I'm going to do this the best I can. Maybe I will not touch the rim, but I'll still jump. I'll still try."

Don't think D'Antoni doesn't notice that. The former high school teacher in him appreciates a player so teachable. It's why he'll spend the time building Mijovic's game. And it's why he tries to find as much court time for him as possible during games. D'Antoni likens it to sticking him in a batting cage with a pitching machine set to 90 miles an hour.

"At first, it's fast and you can't get the bat around," D'Antoni said. "Pretty soon you start timing it and, you know what? Pretty soon, that thing starts looking like a softball."

Finding that court time isn't always easy in the heat of a game. Sometimes it means double-digit minutes, like the 20 Mijovic played against Nevada or the 18 he played against Western Kentucky. Sometimes it's just not there. Mijovic hasn't played more than four minutes in any of the Herd's last five games, not even getting off the bench in Marshall's upset win over UTEP.

Yet Mijovic won't be deterred. His friends in Serbia already on Division I college rosters warned him that freshmen often see very little playing time, and he's grateful for whatever chances he gets. And D'Antoni knows a downturn in court time won't dampen Mijovic's spirits. He'll continue working himself to exhaustion in practice. He'll continue paring down his body fat and building strength in the weight room.

D'Antoni's already seen major strides in the freshman who couldn't touch the rim in August but is dunking in January. And he doesn't see why Mijovic can't keep improving.

"He's going to be all right before he gets out of here, because he has that mindset," he said. "I recruited him because he had a big body, he'd work hard and you can hear him in practice. He's a force. He can get down and call screens and jump out there. Once he gets to where he can play at this level, then you've got a player."

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Kambola earns spot in starting lineup for Marshall men http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150125/DM03/150129470 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150125/DM03/150129470 Sun, 25 Jan 2015 21:15:08 -0500 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Dan D'Antoni says he doesn't build doghouses. But however you defined J.P. Kambola's predicament, his location at the end of the bench, and the Marshall men's basketball team's rotation, was evident.

The senior forward had seen little time on the floor for the Thundering Herd since the end of December. That's because D'Antoni had seen little of the spark required for Kambola to enter a game.

That changed last week. Kambola's energy spiked, so D'Antoni rewarded him Thursday with more playing time and Saturday with his third start of the season.

Saturday's result was a 13-point, nine-rebound performance and the Herd's first win since Dec. 16, a 78-71 upset of UTEP at the Cam Henderson Center.

Before this past week, Kambola's time on the court was fleeting. From Marshall's Dec. 22 loss at Nevada to its Jan. 17 loss at Florida Atlantic, the forward had played no more than four minutes in a game and sat out three of them entirely. It led one reporter to ask D'Antoni whether Kambola was stuck in his doghouse.

"Before practice before the last game," D'Antoni said, "I went to J.P. and said somebody asked me this question and repeated the question and I said, 'J.P., there's no doghouses. All you've got to do is come out and show me in practice that you want to be out on that floor."

That must have happened, because Kambola played 14 minutes - more than the previous six games combined - in the Herd's loss to UTSA. He made 3 of 4 shots, pulled down five rebounds and recorded two blocks. During Saturday morning's shootaround, coaches told Kambola not to line up with the scout team. He was part of the Herd's starting lineup.

"Me being one of the older guys on the team, guys look up to me," Kambola said. "They feed off my energy. They always tell me that's why I wasn't playing in the past, because I wasn't giving off enough energy.

"Last game, I gave them an energy boost and we saw how we improved and tonight we won a big game with my energy," he said. "So I feel the more energy I show to the guys, the more confidence they'll start feeling in themselves, and I'll be able to help them out in the paint."

Among the biggest sparks Kambola provided came in the opening minutes of the second half. Marshall (5-15, 1-6 C-USA) entered that period with a 42-39 lead. Kambola flushed a pair of dunks - the first off a Ryan Taylor alley-oop and the second off a put-back - to extend the lead to 46-39.

Another came late in the game on the defensive end. With 41 seconds left, UTEP had a chance to cut Marshall's lead to three points when Earvin Morris drove to the hoop. But the 6-foot-9 Kambola was there to swat away Morris' attempt. Marshall corralled the rebound and ended the Miners rally.

"Really, I blacked out at that moment," Kambola said of that block. "I've never blocked a shot with my left hand, so I just blacked out and jumped. I had seen the ball in the air, so I just went for it and I got it without a foul."

Kambola's point total against UTEP was just two off his career high. Of his nine rebounds, five came off the offensive glass. He also blocked two shots and his 26 minutes tied his career high.

Taylor said it was obvious how much Kambola meant to Marshall's ability to end a nine-game losing streak and a 15-game losing streak against Division I opponents.

"J.P. can be a very big asset to our team," Taylor said. "He can block shots, rebound, he can score. He can do just about anything. We knew we were going to need him throughout the season. Last game, he stepped up big, and this game, he stepped up bigger."

D'Antoni was proud of how Kambola took the criticism and the advice and bounced back to reclaim his role as a significant contributor.

"To speak well for that young man - and he's a great young man who's run up against the wall, he's a senior, had that high point at West Virginia and it started dwindling down - a lot of guys with a lot less character than him would have quit," D'Antoni said. "But you know what? He picked it up and came back and that speaks volumes for him. It's not me, it's not anybody else, it's him."

Kambola hopes Saturday's win will shake the Herd out of its doldrums. That Marshall could score this victory in conference play is crucial. With Southern Mississippi - Marshall's opponent this Thursday in Hattiesburg, Miss. - pulling itself out of the 2015 postseason because of an eligibility investigation, the Herd needs to finish above just one other team in C-USA play to qualify for the conference tournament. Marshall is one of three teams, including Southern Miss and Florida Atlantic, with one conference win. Three more - Florida International, Charlotte and North Texas - have just two conference wins.

Kambola wants to play an important part in that chase for a tournament spot, and felt Saturday's game was a good way to start earning it.

"They told me before the game to seize the opportunity," he said. "So this was the opportunity to go in and show to my teammates and my coaches that I want to play. My opportunity was here, so I made the best of it."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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Marshall men's hoops snaps skid with upset over UTEP (Video) http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150124/DM03/150129540 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150124/DM03/150129540 Sat, 24 Jan 2015 19:06:37 -0500 By Derek Redd

(On our app? Watch Dan D'Antoni postgame video here)

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - What Marshall men's basketball coach Dan D'Antoni sought from his Thundering Herd through nine straight losses - better shooting, better energy, more consistent play - were found Saturday against the University of Texas at El Paso.

And the Herd found its first win since Dec. 16, a 78-71 win over the Miners at the Cam Henderson Center.

Justin Edmonds scored a career-high 20, Ryan Taylor scored 10 of the Herd's last 11 points and 17 overall and, in his first start since Dec. 1, J.P. Kambola scored 13 points with nine rebounds. D'Antoni said the Herd (5-15, 1-6 Conference USA) seemed much more effective shooting.

"It just felt like we made shots that we haven't done before," D'Antoni said. "I know we made crucial shots. The key to the way we play is you have to be able to shoot and you have to have multiple shooters."

The Herd made 5 of its last 6 shots from the floor to close out the Miners (12-7, 4-3 C-USA). Meanwhile, UTEP scored just three points in the game's final 5:15 and made 1 of 9 from the floor in that span.

Before the Miners went cold, though, it looked like the Herd was setting itself up for another disappointing finish. After leading by as many as 11 in the second half, Marshall saw UTEP climb back into the game by outscoring the Herd 22-10 over the next 9:57. Vince Hunter's layup with 5:15 to go gave UTEP a 68-67 lead.

Then Taylor, Marshall's leading scorer at 14.8 points per game, took over. The Herd regained the lead for good on his layup with 3:20 left and he didn't miss the rest of the game, going 3 for 3 from the floor and 4 for 4 from the free-throw line in that streak.

"Coach just tells me to be a leader on the court even though I'm a sophomore," Taylor said. "My teammates were giving me the ball in good positions and setting good pick and rolls. After that first one went down, I just felt good."

Any chance the Miners had of stealing away the game was swatted away by Kambola with 41 seconds to go. He blocked an Earvin Morris layup attempt and Morris fouled Taylor four seconds later to send Taylor to the line.

Kambola, who averaged 5.4 minutes over the last five games he played, earned the start Saturday after sparking the team off the bench in Thursday's loss to the University of Texas at San Antonio. He provided another boost in the first 90 seconds after halftime Saturday, with a pair of dunks that extended the Herd's lead to 46-39.

Kambola learned during Saturday morning's shootaround that he would start, and wanted to provide even more of a jolt as a starter than he did as a backup Thursday.

"I feel the more energy I show to the guys, the more confidence they start feeling in themselves," he said, "and I'll be there to help them out in the paint."

The first 90 seconds of the second half were a major swing from the first 90 seconds of the first half, when D'Antoni had to burn a time out to regroup the Herd. Marshall committed three turnovers in that time. The Herd also struggled down low defensively against Miners forward Cedric Lang, who had 10 points in the game's first seven minutes.

He scored only one point after that, though, as Marshall's post defense bounced back.

"They loaded up in the second half," UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. "When we looked out there in the first four minutes of the second half, they had five guys with their feet in the lane and it made it more difficult for us to go finish.

"We wanted to continue to throw it in there, and we did," he continued, "but as you saw, we had some turnovers throwing it out."

Taylor led all players with 10 rebounds. Omega Harris led UTEP with 18 points, while Julian Washburn dealt seven assists. Vince Hunter, the Miners' leading scorer at 15.9 points per game, scored just nine points and just two in the first half.

D'Antoni, who picked up his first conference win as Marshall's head coach, said his players earned that win with their refusal to fold following months of struggles. Marshall hadn't defeated a Division I foe since beating Savannah State on Nov. 16.

"The young men, who have been running into 'L' after 'L' after 'L,' to keep coming to practice, to keep trying to get better, working to find the 'W's, this was a real good reward for them. I'm happy for them. They deserve it. They've played very, very hard, not only this game, but they prepared themselves to win this game through a lot of snowy weather."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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Slow start dooms Marshall hoops against UTSA http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150122/DM03/150129651 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150122/DM03/150129651 Thu, 22 Jan 2015 23:25:05 -0500 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The worst shooting team in Conference USA men's basketball staged a renaissance in the second half of its game Thursday night.

Yet that hot streak wasn't enough for Marshall to overcome its stone-cold start, and the Thundering Herd lost its ninth straight game and 15th in its last 16 with an 82-68 setback to UTSA at the Henderson Center.

Marshall (4-15, 0-6 C-USA) shot a robust 51.6 percent from the floor in the second half (16-for-31) after making just 8 of 32 first-half attempts (25 percent). That allowed the Herd to cut what was a 24-point UTSA lead to just five with 2:29 left in the game. Sophomore Austin Loop was fouled on a layup, made the basket, and cashed in on the ensuing free throw.

But a quick 7-2 run by the Roadrunners (9-8, 3-3 C-USA) allowed UTSA to keep Marshall at arm's length. Ryan Taylor scored 21 points for Marshall, but it wasn't enough to overcome UTSA senior Jeromie Hill's career-high 36.

And it left Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni frustrated yet again over the peaks and valleys of his team's intensity.

"I don't even know where to begin," he said. "We just came out the first part of the game and did not do ... we didn't play basketball at the intensity and the aggressive level that you have to play to win a Division I game.

"If we start a game out the way it should have been started, then we probably would have to see the results that we got."

The Herd has not beaten a Division I opponent since a Nov. 16 win over Savannah State.

Marshall started the game with a barrage of shots from its favorite spot, the 3-point line. No team in Conference USA has attempted more from beyond the arc than the Herd. But that spot didn't love Marshall back Thursday.

Seven of the Herd's first 10 shots came from 3-point range, and Marshall made just two of them. MU, who entered Thursday shooting a conference-low 37.8 percent from the floor, made just three of its first 20 shots and fell behind by double digits less than eight minutes into the game.

The Roadrunners' lead grew to as many as 21 in the first half, led by a red-hot performance from leading scorer Jeromie Hill. The senior from Carins, Australia scored 23 first-half points, having his way with Marshall's interior defense and adding a pair of 3-pointers. He matched the Herd's entire first-half output himself, as UTSA entered halftime with a 39-23 lead.

"I think he picked and chose his spots," UTSA coach Brooks Thompson said. "I think if you ask him and you ask me, he took four or five bad shots and he knew it. I think they were heat-check shots. Everything was going in for him, so you can't get too mad at him. I think he was really comfortable in the game, offensively."

Marshall climbed back into the game by finally putting together a streak of accuracy. J.P. Kambola's dunk with 13:29 left kickstarted a run where the Herd made 7 of 9 from the floor. The final basket of that stretch was Austin Loop's 3-pointer with 7:33 remaining. He was fouled on the shot and cashed in on the ensuing free throw to cut UTSA's lead to 58-51.

Taylor, who eclipsed the 20-point mark for the second straight game, said there was just more zip in the Herd's play in the second half.

"I thought our energy got us good shots and we started making them," Taylor said. "Then everybody on our team had energy, so if they had the open shot, they made it.

"Our energy picked our defense up and our defense picked our offense up and we started making shots and getting stops."

Loop and Justin Edmonds each added 12 points for Marshall, and Taylor led the Herd with 11 rebounds. Loop scored all his points in the second half, unable to even get a shot off in the first 20 minutes. Kaj-Bjorn Sherman scored 14 for the Roadrunners, making 10 of 11 free throws.

The Herd will get another shot to snap its losing streak at 3 p.m. Saturday, when Marshall hosts UTEP. For the losing to end, D'Antoni said, the players need to give full-time effort, that the spurts weren't enough.

"I told them that and I challenged them with that," he said. "You have to come every day and play hard. That allows me to coach. If you don't come out and put that competitive stuff out there, then I become a cheerleader, and I'm not any better than anyone else sitting in those stands.

"I know deep down that they're trying to figure it all out," D'Antoni added. "I'd like to come up with some diagram or something really smart and clever, but sometimes it's the fight in the dog."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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Marshall tries to snap slump against UTSA http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150121/DM03/150129763 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150121/DM03/150129763 Wed, 21 Jan 2015 22:54:42 -0500 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Mired in an eight-game losing streak and still searching for a Conference USA win, Marshall men's basketball coach Dan D'Antoni is trying to keep his Thundering Herd's spirits up heading into the weekend. In attempting to snap Marshall's doldrums, is D'Antoni singing different versions of the same song?

"I don't even know if it's different versions," D'Antoni said. "It's singing the song again."

The refrain may be familiar, but the first-year coach feels it's important. He thinks the Herd is on the cusp of a breakthrough, but it still must take those last few steps to get there, a mission that continues at 7 p.m. Thursday when Marshall hosts UTSA.

"You watch their practices, they're lively," D'Antoni said. "They're still very spirited. They're still with themselves. They can see it. When we watch on tape, they can see how close we are. We're in every game, every game, and have a chance. And if we can just extend our play a little bit ... they see their mistakes and they understand that the coaching staff's with them.

"They're good guys, they're playing hard and they're working," he added. "So it's the same old song. We have to play a little smarter and keep extending our game so we don't have the letdown at critical times that either lets the team back in when we should have put them away, or don't finish one off."

The Herd (4-14, 0-5 C-USA) twice suffered those letdowns last weekend in Florida. Marshall led by as many as 18 over Florida International before falling 66-62 in overtime. Then the Herd led Florida Atlantic by 11, but the Owls dominated the game's home stretch and Marshall fell 76-62, the Herd's 14th loss in its last 15 games.

Sophomore forward Ryan Taylor sees it on film, too, both the good things that allow Marshall to stake those leads and what he calls the "bonehead plays" that erase those leads and send the Herd off the court disappointed again.

"I think if we cut out just a few things we do - in the beginning of the game, the middle of the game or the end of the game - we can win," Taylor said. "I know everybody on the team is hungry for that first conference win and to break that losing streak."

Racking up a couple of conference wins became even more crucial Tuesday night, when Southern Mississippi announced it would impose on itself a postseason ban for 2014-15. The Golden Eagles men's basketball team is currently under investigation regarding how tuition and other expenses were paid for recruits who signed with USM but weren't yet eligible for scholarships.

That postseason ban includes the Conference USA Tournament. Twelve of the conference's 14 teams make the conference tournament and, with Southern Miss out of the way, Marshall needs to be ahead of just one eligible team to make it to Birmingham, Ala. Southern Miss is winless in conference as well. Marshall sits one win behind FAU and North Texas, and two wins behind FIU, UTSA, Charlotte and Rice.

The Roadrunners (8-8, 2-3) had won three of four games before falling to UTEP - Marshall's Saturday opponent - on Jan. 17. UTSA shot just 38.5 percent from the field and 20 percent from 3-point range against the Miners.

Senior forward Jeromie Hill leads the Roadrunners in points and is tied for the lead in rebounds the 6-foot-8 post player averages 15.5 points per game and both he and senior center Kaj-Bjorn Sherman average 6.9 rebounds per game.

D'Antoni still has a spot in the conference tournament as one of the Herd's goals, so he hasn't given up on the season, especially when he sees his team's desire to get it right.

"To be quite honest with you, when I watch it, I almost cry for them," he said, "because I can see how they're wanting it. I can see how good they play when they can do it right. When they just kind of fall on themselves, it's not intentional. It's just that they haven't had any experience on this team - anybody that's played here - to win on this level.

"We're still searching for that continual play where we don't make those mistakes that just bury us," he added.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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Herd puts three on preseason all-C-USA softball team http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150121/DM03/150129785 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150121/DM03/150129785 Wed, 21 Jan 2015 21:22:28 -0500

FROM STAFF REPORTS

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The Marshall University softball team, picked to finish fourth in Conference USA in the coaches' preseason poll, also put three players on the preseason all-conference team, Marshall announced Wednesday. The Thundering Herd and Florida Atlantic tied for the most players on the preseason all-conference team.

Marshall was represented by junior outfielder Kaelynn Greene, junior infielder Shaelynn Braxton and sophomore outfielder Morgan Zerkle. Both Greene and Braxton were preseason all-conference picks last year. Greene set the single-season team record for hits (81) last year, while Braxton's 57 RBI were second best in school history and her 16 home runs were third-best. Zerkle set a single-season school record with 48 stolen bases.

The Herd picked up one first-place vote in the preseason rankings, and was chosen to finish behind Florida International and UAB, tied for first, and FAU in third.

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College Swimming names Marshall team to most improved list http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150120/DM03/150129910 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150120/DM03/150129910 Tue, 20 Jan 2015 20:55:59 -0500

FROM STAFF REPORTS

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Collegeswimming.com has named Marshall University's swimming and diving team as its 16th most improved women's team in 2015 in a recent article.

The article ranks the top 25 most improved teams from January 2014 to this year. The basis for the rankings, according to the site, is the current College Swimming rankings, the change in ranking from the previous season and the site's power point score change from last year.

Herd coach Bill Tramel said he was pleased with the recognition.

"This is certainly quite an honor for our team and staff," Tramel said. "It validates the hard work our staff has done in recruiting and coaching. This ranking is quantitative based on the improvement from last year's times to this year's times. It's a truer evaluation."

Tramel also said the recognition was thanks to the hard work from the team.

"However, the biggest honor goes to our team," Tramel said. "It really spotlights the hard work the athletes themselves have done. I know they are proud to represent Marshall University."

The No. 1 improved team was the University of Virginia. Marshall was joined by two other Conference USA schools, Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic.

Marshall will be back in action this Saturday at Duquesne.

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Derek Redd: Herd struggling to put plan in action http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150119/DM03/150119171 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150119/DM03/150119171 Mon, 19 Jan 2015 23:04:13 -0500 By Derek Redd CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Listen to Marshall men's basketball coach Dan D'Antoni talk about his Thundering Herd and you can hear his hopes and ideas for what he wants his team to accomplish on the floor. So far, though, those hopes haven't become reality.

The Herd has lost 14 of its last 15 games and, this past weekend, couldn't cling to the pair of double-digit leads it enjoyed. Marshall led by as many as 18 against Florida International before losing 66-62 in overtime. It led Florida Atlantic by as many as 11 before the Owls dominated the end of the game to run away with a 76-62 victory.

D'Antoni often describes how his system will work when the players who run it fill the necessary roles. Take, for instance, his comments after Marshall's loss to Charlotte, when Austin Loop scored a career-high 26 points and made 5 of 9 from 3-point range. As time goes on, D'Antoni said, accurate shooting won't be the strength of just one or two players. Many of them will master it.

"You'll see the floor start looking big around the basket," he said. "And when that happens, you'll get some people down the middle and get in the lane a little harder."

Yet, right now, Loop's touch hasn't trickled down to the rest of the team. Marshall is last in Conference USA in field-goal percentage, the only team in the 14-member league to shoot worse than 40 percent. In fact, Marshall's 38.6 percent from the floor ranks 329th out of 345 Division I basketball teams. And while the Herd has made more 3-pointers than any other C-USA team, it's also taken the most and its 30.8 percent from beyond the arc is 12th in the conference.

So when the shots aren't falling from the outside, the floor stays crowded down the lane. Even then, the players in the lane and in the post are having their shooting troubles as well.

No member of the Herd playing significant minutes is shooting better than Loop's 43.2 percent. Leading scorer Ryan Taylor is shooting 42.4 percent overall, but 50 percent inside the 3-point line. But point guard Aleksa Nikolic is shooting just 27.9 percent, shooting guard Justin Edmonds is shooting 35.4 percent and post player Cheikh Sane is shooting just 37.8 percent.

While better outside shooting would open up the lanes, better post scoring would give those long-range shooters better looks at the basket. When neither is working, it leads to the shooting numbers the Herd is suffering through right now.

And it leads to dubious distinctions, like the fact Marshall hasn't beaten a Division I foe since a Nov. 16 win over Savannah State. But D'Antoni wasn't just hired to change the program's luck on the court. He said he came to change the atmosphere surrounding it, too.

"The way the kids walked through airports, the way they went to class, the way they handled themselves on the bench whether we won or lost, the way we dressed," he said. "And these kids have been super."

That meant no more players elbowing opponents in the throat as they jogged back up the court. No more players letting their existential crises play out over social media. No more behavior that leads to press releases announcing a player has been removed from the roster for team rule violations.

The problem is, the players who fit the bill of that previous paragraph for Marshall also were some of the more talented - and now former - members of the roster. That's the trade-off D'Antoni made this season - improving the culture even if it meant some on-court struggles. But help looks like it's on the way. Marshall has four players sitting out right now - transfers James Kelly, Stevie Browning and Jon Elmore and academic non-qualifier C.J. Burks - who look like they have the skill sets that fit what D'Antoni is trying to do.

And D'Antoni remains committed to his system. He said a few weeks back that wins and losses don't intimidate him, meaning he won't scrap his schemes because of the team's record. And he refuses to let the team sulk as it struggles to win.

"We don't feel sorry for ourselves," he said after the FAU loss. "We have to come out and just keep getting better."

At this point, better might be all Marshall can get.

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Former Power player traded to Rangers; Ex-Herd pitcher dealt to Astros http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150119/DM03/150119183 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150119/DM03/150119183 Mon, 19 Jan 2015 21:04:57 -0500

FROM STAFF REPORTS

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The Milwaukee Brewers traded Yovani Gallardo and $4 million of his $14 million salary to the Texas Rangers for infielder Luis Sardinas and right-handers Corey Knebel and Marcos Diplan on Monday.

"It definitely means a lot. I grew up here, went to high school here," said the former West Virginia Power star, who lives in North Texas. "I'm very excited for this opportunity and looking forward to it."

Gallardo, who turns 29 next month, was 8-11 last year with a 3.51 ERA in 32 starts last season. He was 89-64 with a 3.69 ERA in an eight-year career with Milwaukee.

* * *

FORMER MARSHALL pitcher Dan Straily is going from the Chicago Cubs to the Houston Astros in a trade that features outfielder Dexter Fowler going to Chicago and Luis Valbuena and Strailey headed to the Astros.

Fowler, 28, hit .276 with eight homers and 35 RBIs last year in his only season with the Astros, who obtained him from Colorado for outfielder Brandon Barnes and right-hander Jordan Lyles.

Fowler, who has a .271 career average, asked last week for $10.8 million in arbitration and was offered $8.5 million. He is eligible for free agency after the season.

Straily, 26, was 1-3 with a 6.75 ERA last season in eight starts and six relief appearances for Oakland and the Cubs, who acquired him as part of the trade that sent Jeff Samardzija to the Athletics. He was 10-8 for the A's in 2013.

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Marshall men's hoops can't hold on against FAU http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150117/DM03/150119306 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150117/DM03/150119306 Sat, 17 Jan 2015 20:10:11 -0500

From staff reports

The Marshall men's basketball team's trip through Florida was anything but sunny. The Thundering Herd dropped the second game of a two-game Sunshine State road trip Saturday night, with a 76-62 loss to Florida Atlantic at FAU Arena.

Sophomore Ryan Taylor led Marshall with 24 points, but the Herd (4-14, 0-5 Conference USA) could not hold onto a lead that stretched to as many as 11 points.

"We just can't finish the game," Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni said on the postgame broadcast. "We led, what, three-fourths of the game, probably, but we just can't finish them. We can't find people at the right places at the right times, but we've got to keep looking."

The loss is the Herd's eighth in a row and 14th in its last 15 games. Marshall hasn't won a game since Dec. 16 over Division II King University and hasn't won a game against a Division I foe since Nov. 16 over Savannah State.

Marshall's 0-5 start to C-USA play is its worst since it joined the conference and the worst start for the Herd in conference play in any conference since beginning the 2004-05 Mid-American Conference campaign 0-10.

The Owls (8-8, 1-4 C-USA) surged in the second half thanks to revivals by a trio of players. Sophomore guard Marquan Botley scored 17 of his team-high 23 points in the second half, while freshman center C.J. Turman scored 11 of his 13 in the second half and senior forward Kelvin Penn scored eight of his 12 in the second half. Georgia Tech transfer Solomon Poole scored 18 points.

Freshman guard Aleksa Nikolic scored a career-best 15 points for the Herd, while Jay Johnson added 10. Marshall returns to the Cam Henderson Center this coming weekend for a pair of games, at 7 p.m. Thursday against the University of Texas at San Antonio and at 3 p.m. Saturday against the University of Texas at El Paso (WCHS or WVAH).

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Herd men blow lead, lose to FIU in OT http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150115/DM03/150119431 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150115/DM03/150119431 Thu, 15 Jan 2015 23:12:50 -0500

from staff reports

A promising start collapsed into more of the same for the Marshall men's basketball team, which suffered through a slew of turnovers and a frigid night from the free throw line to lose in overtime, 66-62, to Florida International on Thursday at FIU Arena.

Ryan Taylor's layup with less than a second left in regulation knotted the score at 59-59. Down two with 14 seconds left, the Herd (4-13, 0-4 Conference USA) went to Taylor again. But this time he was blocked by Daivyon Draper and Kris Gulley grabbed the ball, raced down to the other end and dunked with nine seconds left to seal the game.

"We're just finding ways," Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni said. "We forgot how to win. I don't know whether the pressure just keeps mounting up on them and they bow to the pressure. Whatever it is that's the excuse, we've got to get through it and we've got to get some Ws for ourselves."

Justin Edmonds scored 15 points and Taylor scored 14, but the Herd committed 19 turnovers and made just 6 of 16 from the free throw line. FIU's leading scorer, Dennis Mavin, led the Panthers on Thursday with a game-high 19 points.

The Herd (4-13, 0-4 Conference USA) remains winless on the road this season, hasn't won a game since a Dec. 16 victory over Division II King University and hasn't won a game against a Division I foe since a Nov. 16 win over Savannah State.

The Herd opened the game with an 11-2 run and led by as many as 18 in the first half. Marshall made 10 of 20 first-half 3-pointers, while making just 2 of 9 from inside the arc. MU also dominated the boards in the first 20 minutes, outrebounding the Panthers 24-11, including 8-1 on the offensive glass.

Yet Marshall made just one of its first eight shots of the second half and made just 9 of 33 shots for the entire period. The Herd's long-distance accuracy also fell off. Marshall made just two 3-pointers after halftime.

Austin Loop scored 11 points for the Herd, but none after halftime, and Taylor picked up a double-double with 11 rebounds. Adrian Diaz scored 12 points with eight rebounds for FIU (9-8, 2-2 C-USA). The Herd plays again Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Florida Atlantic (WCHS).

* * *

Marshall women beat FIU

Leah Scott and A.J. Johnson each scored 19 points and Chukwuka Ezeigbo flirted with a triple-double as the Marshall women's basketball team defeated Florida International University, 67-61, Thursday at the Cam Henderson Center.

It was Marshall's (10-5, 2-2 Conference USA) second win in the last three games and fifth in the Thundering Herd's last seven. Marshall is now one win away from matching its win total from the entire 2013-14 season.

The Herd led by as many as nine in the first half, but the Panthers (3-12, 0-4 C-USA) struck back in the second, outscoring Marshall 17-8 in the first 8:06 of that period. Marshall recovered to regain the lead on Scott's layup with 5:42 left. Ezeigbo finished with 11 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocks. Marshall hosts Florida Atlantic at 1 p.m. Saturday.

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Marshall's Loop leads Herd into Thursday game at FIU http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150114/DM03/150119541 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150114/DM03/150119541 Wed, 14 Jan 2015 21:35:49 -0500 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - A year ago, Austin Loop was a bit player on the Marshall men's basketball roster looking for game minutes anywhere he could find them. Now he's logged more minutes this season than anyone else on the Thundering Herd.

And he'll likely remain one of first-year coach Dan D'Antoni's most relied upon players because of one significant gift - a shooting touch that makes him one of Conference USA's most prolific and accurate long-distance marksmen. He'll get plenty of chances to demonstrate it when the Herd visits Florida International at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

And that's exactly what D'Antoni wants.

"He has a high-Division-I skill, which is shooting the basketball," D'Antoni said. "When you have a player who is consistent with the way he plays and has a skill you can exploit, I think he's going a great job."

The redshirt sophomore is doing well enough that he once again earned a scholarship at midseason. It's the second straight year that's happened - and Loop said Marshall (4-12, 0-3 C-USA) needed to appeal to the NCAA in order to do it a second time - but this year, there's a difference. His playing time hasn't disappeared once the scholarship was in his hands.

Former coach Tom Herrion placed Loop on scholarship during last season's spring semester on Jan. 12 after Marshall's loss at the UTEP. Yet he played only nine total minutes in two games for the rest of the Herd's 11-22 campaign.

After Herrion departed and D'Antoni arrived, Loop returned to walk-on status. Loop said he knew his original scholarship was only going to last that one semester, but hoped he could get it back. D'Antoni said the 6-foot-4 South Webster, Ohio, native could regain it if he proved it on the floor. Loop did just that.

After playing a grand total of 75 minutes in the 2013-14 season, Loop has played a team-high 485 minutes this season. He played all 40 in Marshall's 77-72 loss to Charlotte. No C-USA men's hoops player has attempted or made more 3-pointers than Loop this season. He's made 46 beyond the arc out of 108 attempts, a rate of 42.6 percent that ranks ninth in the conference.

Loop finished the Charlotte game with a career-high 26 points, making 5 of 9 3-pointers, and now averages 11.6 points per game. None of this Loop anticipated as the season began.

"In the summer, I didn't know what my minutes would be like," Loop said. "I was clueless. Even at the beginning of the season, I didn't know if I was going to start.

"That was a surprise to me, starting, getting a lot of minutes, scoring the points I'm scoring," he added. "I think I'm as surprised as everyone else."

What doesn't surprise D'Antoni is Loop's long-range skill. Loop said D'Antoni will give him grief if he passes up an open shot. D'Antoni feels any open shot Loop gets is one he should take.

"Once he gets off of there, I'm disappointed when it doesn't go down," D'Antoni said. "I think it's going down."

The Herd is looking for any pick-me-up during its current struggles. Marshall has lost five straight and 12 of its last 13 and visits an FIU team ranked fourth in the conference in field goal percentage at 44.5 percent. Marshall has allowed conference foes to shoot 49.4 percent from the floor so far.

The Panthers (8-8, 1-2 C-USA) are led by senior guard Dennis Mavin, who tops FIU with 16.8 points per game and is second on the team with 5.3 rebounds per game.

There's another major motivation for Loop this season - the memory of his father, DeWayne, who died in December following a battle with cancer. Loop said he comes from a basketball family and wanted his success on the court to keep up his father's spirits.

"From the beginning of the season, I was playing for him because he was sick," Loop said. "I knew time was limited. He got a lot of pleasure and was really proud of me. I try to just honor him and continue to make him proud and my family."

Loop's performance and good fortune has made plenty around him very happy, and his numbers likely won't shrink, especially in D'Antoni's system, which Loop feels accentuates his best basketball attributes.

"I think this system really highlights what I can do," Loop said. "Not just the system, but the coaching and (D'Antoni's) attitude towards everything. It lets me do what I do best.

"I've always known I can shoot, and I've always felt that, if you can shoot, you can play at pretty much any level," he added. "But I didn't think it would be to this extreme."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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Marshall finishes No. 23 in AP top 25; Ohio State No. 1 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150113/DM03/150119755 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150113/DM03/150119755 Tue, 13 Jan 2015 08:24:52 -0500

FROM STAFF REPORTS

The Marshall University football program finished No. 23 in the final Associated Press top 25 poll, which was released early Tuesday morning after the national championship game. It is the third time in school history the Thundering Herd finished the season ranked in the media rankings.

Ohio State is No. 1 and TCU finished third, in front of two teams that made the playoff ahead of the Horned Frogs.

The Buckeyes finished on top of the AP Top 25 for the fifth time in program history, matching Miami and Southern California for fourth most behind Alabama (nine), Notre Dame (eight) and Oklahoma (seven).

Ohio State beat Oregon 42-20 on Monday night in the first College Football Playoff national championship game and got all 59 first-place votes in the media poll.

The Ducks finished second in the rankings, matching their best finish.

The Horned Frogs, who were left out of the playoff but beat Mississippi 42-3 in the Peach Bowl, were ranked ahead of No. 4 Alabama and No. 5 Florida State. The Tide and Seminoles lost playoff semifinals.

Michigan State tied Florida State for fifth.

Marshall completed its season 13-1 with a Boca Raton Bowl win over Northern Illinois. The Herd, the Conference USA champions, defeated the Mid-American Conference champions 52-23 last month. The only blemish on Marshall's record was a 67-66 overtime loss to Western Kentucky in the regular-season finale on Nov. 28.

The Herd first cracked the top 25 in Week 7 and appeared in the rankings in eight of 16 weeks this season.

The Top 25 teams in The Associated Press college football poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, final records, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote, and previous ranking:

Record Pts Pv

1. Ohio St. (59) 14-1 1,475 5

2. Oregon 13-2 1,402 3

3. TCU 12-1 1,349 6

4. Alabama 12-2 1,297 1

5. Florida St. 13-1 1,212 2

5. Michigan St. 11-2 1,212 7

7. Baylor 11-2 1,098 4

8. Georgia Tech 11-3 1,071 10

9. Georgia 10-3 925 13

10. UCLA 10-3 908 14

11. Mississippi St. 10-3 767 8

12. Arizona St. 10-3 756 15

13. Wisconsin 11-3 724 17

14. Missouri 11-3 710 16

15. Clemson 10-3 683 18

16. Boise St. 12-2 653 21

17. Mississippi 9-4 543 9

18. Kansas St. 9-4 509 11

19. Arizona 10-4 499 12

20. Southern Cal 9-4 315 24

21. Utah 9-4 302 23

22. Auburn 8-5 216 19

23. Marshall 13-1 161 NR

24. Louisville 9-4 116 20

25. Memphis 10-3 94 NR

Others receiving votes: Notre Dame 28, Stanford 27, Nebraska 22, Air Force 21, Duke 18, LSU 12, Utah St. 11, Arkansas 10, Minnesota 9, Oklahoma 7, Texas A&M 7, N. Illinois 4, Colorado St. 2.

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Derek Redd: Payton honored to join Herd's Hall crew http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150112/DM03/150119764 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150112/DM03/150119764 Mon, 12 Jan 2015 23:27:30 -0500 By Derek Redd CHARLESTON, W.Va. - When the knock came on Michael Payton's door last Thursday, he figured it was the man he hired to repair that entrance coming back with more parts. Instead, it was a FedEx deliveryman, holding a package that opened a door to an elite and exclusive club.

"I wasn't expecting anything, so I asked him where was it from," Payton said. "He said, 'The National Football Foundation.'"

Inside the box was a football and a letter from the NFF congratulating him on his entrance into the College Football Hall of Fame. He becomes the sixth member of the Thundering Herd football program to enter the Hall, joining running backs Harry "Cy" Young and Jackie Hunt, receivers Mike Barber and Troy Brown and coach Jim Donnan.

Payton, 44, considers it a great honor to join that group and bring another accolade back to Marshall, a university that had endured so much in its past. When he arrived on campus in 1988 and got a deep understanding of the 1970 plane crash that killed 75 Marshall football players, coaches, staff and boosters, it motivated him even further.

"It's very humbling," he said. "When I got there as a freshman and learned about the tragedy, one of my thoughts was I wanted to see if I could achieve some success and bring that triumph back to Huntington. God blessed me with the right coaches, right teammates and the opportunity to do that."

The opportunity to reach the Hall of Fame is one many thought Payton should have received a long time ago. He certainly has the resume.

The Harrisburg, Pa., native won the 1992 Walter Payton Award as Division I-AA's best player, one year after finishing runner-up. He was a consensus All-American as a senior, when he guided the Herd to the 1992 I-AA national title, a year after Marshall lost in the title game.

Marshall has a long history of elite quarterbacks, and Payton had been the standard-bearer in the record books. When Chad Pennington, Byron Leftwich and Rakeem Cato climbed to the top of the Herd's career passing records, it was Payton they all had to hurdle. He finished his Herd career with 9,411 passing yards and 69 touchdown passes.

Payton felt his chances at induction were good. He was coached by Donnan and was teammates with Brown. But the spaces available for induction, coupled with the sheer multitude of men who have played and coached college football, make the wait so long for so many.

On its website, the NFF states there are 963 players and 209 coaches in the Hall of Fame out of the 5.06 million who have played or coached the sport. So entrance has been granted to just two ten-thousandths of one percent of those eligible.

It's a staggering bit of math, Payton said, especially when he considers the caliber of player he called both teammate and opponent.

"I was like, you've got to be kidding me," he said. "When I started doing the math and looking at the numbers, that's what's truly incredible about it. I played in the Southern Conference, and when I played there, the Southern Conference was the toughest division in I-AA. There were a lot of players that were getting into the pros in the late '80s and the '90s."

Payton's selection stirred up plenty of memories. He thought about his mother, who died three years ago, and who Payton considered his biggest fan. He thought about winning that 1992 national championship on his home field, celebrating for hours in the locker room, then emerging to find that hardly anyone in the stands had gone home.

And he thought about the teams he quarterbacked during his years in Huntington and how important their friendship was.

"I miss the camaraderie," he said. "I miss the guys on the field. I look at all the accolades I had and all the achievements I had, and the persons I gave thanks to the most were my offensive line. With those guys stabilizing the pocket for me to pass in and run blocking, and the great defense that we had, none of those accomplishments would be achievable. I wouldn't have made those numbers, hence the awards, hence the Hall of Fame."

Payton remains connected to the sport, coaching youth football in Harrisburg and assisting with the Keystone Assault of the Women's Spring Football League. He spent part of 1993 with the Dallas Cowboys, played two seasons with the Canadian Football League's Saskatchewan Rough Riders and finished his career in 1996 with the Arena Football League's Florida Bobcats. He currently works as a senior staff counselor at Alternative Rehabilitation Communities in Pennsylvania.

The chance for the Payton to revisit his college career has been fun, especially with his 12-year-old son Donovan. Sure, the wait was long, but any frustration vanished right after the knock on his door.

"I'm patient, and now its here," he said. "It's a lifetime achievement. They can't take it away from you. Over the weekend, I kind of just reflected on my whole life, what I wanted to do as a child and how things worked themselves out for me and how blessed I've been as a man. It's truly been a blessing."

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Herd football gets 6 mid-year enrollees http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150112/DM03/150119779 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150112/DM03/150119779 Mon, 12 Jan 2015 20:52:01 -0500

FROM STAFF REPORTS

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Marshall's football team welcomed six mid-year enrollees at the start of classes Monday, the university confirmed Monday evening. The new faces include tight end Emanuel Byrd, receiver Reese Wooten, receiver Raylen Elzy, linebacker Damien Dozier, linebacker Marquis Couch and quarterback Chase Litton.

Byrd is a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder from Georgia Military College, while Elzy is a 6-4, 198-pounder from Atlanta Sports Academy rated three stars by Rivals.com. Dozier is a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder who spent last season at Knightdale High in North Carolina who had verbally committed to Virginia Tech. He's rated two stars by Rivals. Couch is a 6-2, 210-pounder from Miami Central in Florida, where the Herd got quarterback Rakeem Cato and receiver Tommy Shuler, rated three stars by Rivals.

Wooten, a 6-2, 170-pounder from Cairo, Ga., originally was a member of Marshall's 2014 signing class, but spent last fall at Milford Academy in New Berlin, N.Y. Litton, a 6-6, 195-pounder from Tampa, Fla., was a three-star prospect according to Rivals and actually arrived in Huntington in December to practice with the team during bowl preparation.

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Evans Award winner Jon Elmore joins Marshall hoops program http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150112/DM03/150119852 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150112/DM03/150119852 Mon, 12 Jan 2015 11:17:18 -0500 By Derek Redd After months of upheaval, former George Washington and South Charleston basketball star Jon Elmore feels he can return his focus to his college and college basketball futures.

Elmore - the 2014 Evans Award winner as West Virginia's top high school hoops player - started classes at Marshall on Monday and will begin practice with the Thundering Herd on Tuesday. He will walk on this year and will be eligible to play once his grades for the fall 2015 semester are certified.

"I feel really confident," Elmore said. "I met with Coach (Dan) D'Antoni (on Monday). He was great and it was good to finally meet him. I'm going in really optimistic. I'm hoping for the best and think I'll do fine."

The 6-foot-3 guard had signed a letter of intent with Virginia Military Institute, where his older brother Ot Elmore was a member of the basketball team and his father Gay Elmore sits second on the Keydets career scoring charts with 2,422 points. Ot and Jon Elmore withdrew from VMI in October. Jon Elmore said they wanted to be closer to home after their grandfather had fallen ill.

VMI did not release Jon Elmore from his scholarship or his letter of intent. NCAA guidelines say if a student-athlete is not released from his scholarship, he cannot receive a scholarship for a year. If he is not released from his letter of intent, he loses a year of eligibility.

The family's appeal to VMI for a scholarship release was denied, so he'll have to pay his own way at Marshall for the first year. The family also is appealing his letter of intent to the NCAA. If that appeal is granted, it would give him another year to play.

Those issues left Jon Elmore in a tough situation to pick a new school.

"With all the NCAA rules and VMI not releasing me, I had no contact with the coaches at all," he said. "So I was going in kind of blind a little bit on what to expect on the basketball side of things. School-wise, it was the closest Division I school to my home. I felt like Marshall would be a good fit for me."

He also sees D'Antoni's scheme, a fast-paced game that employs plenty of cuts and screens, as a good fit.

"It's like Phoenix Suns 101, Steve Nash coming off the pick and roll and making a play," he said. "I've kind of run that system my whole life, whether it's travel ball or school ball. I kind of always fit into that and I felt that would be a perfect fit for how I play."

Jon Elmore would give D'Antoni another scorer he definitely could use. As a GW senior, Jon Elmore averaged 31.4 points per game. It was the state's highest scoring average since Chase Fischer, now at Brigham Young University, averaged 32.1 points in 2011 as a Ripley High senior.

Jon Elmore becomes yet another player biding his time until he can play next season. Forward James Kelly, who transferred from Miami (Fla.), and guard Stevie Browning, who transferred from Fairmont State, are sitting out this season per NCAA guidelines. Former Hedgesville High standout guard C.J. Burks is sitting this season as an academic non-qualifier.

While he won't be able to take the game court for the Herd until next December, Jon Elmore said there are plenty of ways he can assist his new teammates as he bides his time.

"I'm just kind of looking at it as a redshirt year," he said. "Just time to get in the weight room, get in the gym and get as good as possible until I'm eligible to play. And I know I'll be practicing, so I just want to make the guys around me better and do anything I can to help the team."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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Conference USA teams shooting well against Herd http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150111/DM03/150119866 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150111/DM03/150119866 Sun, 11 Jan 2015 21:50:42 -0500 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The deeper Marshall's men's basketball team has gotten into its Conference USA schedule, the easier it seems for opponents to get the ball in the hoop against the Thundering Herd.

The Herd dropped to 0-3 in conference play after Saturday's 77-72 loss to Charlotte at the Cam Henderson Center, and the 49ers became the first team to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor against Marshall this season. Charlotte started hot and finished at 52.8 percent from the floor.

There have been defensive struggles for the Herd since conference play began. Through 16 games, Marshall allows foes to shoot 41.8 percent, the sixth-best percentage in C-USA. Yet no conference opponent has shot worse than 47.6 percent and the numbers climbed each game.

Western Kentucky shot 47.6 percent versus Marshall in an 82-61 win, then Old Dominion shot 48.3 percent in a 72-51 win before Charlotte made 52.8 percent. Those marks represent three of the four best opponent shooting percentages this year. Morehead State shot 49.1 percent against the Herd in a 77-68 win. Marshall is 12th out of 14 C-USA teams in field goal percentage defense against conference opponents, allowing them to shoot 49.4 percent.

Sophomore guard Austin Loop said slow rotations have been a culprit, and the Herd (4-12) must do better in keeping up on the defensive end of the court.

"We have a bad problem ... I don't want to say losing focus, but we tend to get a step behind at times," Loop said. "We don't anticipate the play well enough and I think that gets us in bad positions."

Loop admitted he was a little late on defense a couple of times against Charlotte, which gave the 49ers open looks. Defensive breakdowns especially hurt the Herd at the game's start. Charlotte made 13 of its first 17 shots from the floor, including a 5-minute, 16-second span where it made nine of 10, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range.

When Cameron Blakely drained a jumper with 8:14 left in the first half, the 49ers owned a 32-22 lead and the Herd played from behind the rest of the game. Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni said Charlotte ran a "horns" set on offense, where the two post players come up high near the 3-point arc on either side of the point guard and sets screens for him, which the 49ers used to their advantage.

"We have the big normally come out and we were attacking the ball too hard and couldn't get back," he said. "I thought we gave them trouble. If you take the first five or six minutes away, the shooting percentages would have been decent for us."

Take out Charlotte's torrid start and the 49ers shot 15 for 36 for the rest of the game. That 41.6 percent is a smidgen under Marshall's season average. Field-goal percentage defense is an issue the Herd, loser of five straight and 12 of its last 13, needs to fix quickly. Marshall visits Florida International at 7 p.m. Thursday, and the Panthers are fourth in the conference shooting 44.5 percent from the floor.

Marshall sophomore forward Ryan Taylor said the Herd needs to return to a quicker pace overall, which should fatigue opponents and cool down their shooting hands.

"I just think we have to get back to an up-and-down pace more," Taylor said, "running them so, in the second half, their legs are gone and they can't make those shots if they're open or they're contested."

The Herd is just 16 games into its tenure with D'Antoni, who replaced former coach Tom Herrion in the offseason and brought with him new offensive and defensive schemes. D'Antoni also is calling upon players to log significant minutes who haven't done so in the past. For instance, Loop played all 40 minutes against Charlotte, has started every contest this season and averaged 30.3 minutes. Last year, he played in just 13 games, started none and averaged 5.8 minutes.

On the other hand, the Charlotte game sent Marshall into its second half of the season. The Herd has 15 games left and needs to finish ahead of at least two C-USA foes to make the conference tournament in Birmingham, Ala. So newness, Loop said, is losing its strength as an excuse.

"All the film we watch and stuff with Coach, I think we know what we've got to do," Loop said.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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MARSHALL BASKETBALL: Herd fumbles away fifth straight game, 77-72, to Charlotte http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150110/DM03/150119911 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150110/DM03/150119911 Sat, 10 Jan 2015 22:47:26 -0500 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - It was another case of close, but not quite for Marshall's men's basketball team.

This time, the Thundering Herd's chance to send Saturday night's game against Charlotte into overtime couldn't get past halfcourt. Down three points with 7.2 seconds left, junior guard Tamron Manning grabbed the inbounds pass. But Charlotte senior guard Pierria Henry, a former South Charleston High star, knocked the ball loose.

The ball finally ended up in Torin Dorn's hands, and Dorn slammed home the final basket with time running out to give the 49ers a 77-72 win. It also gave the Herd (4-12, 0-3 Conference USA) its fifth consecutive loss and 12th in the last 13 games.

"We play good for a while, but we do some of the things that just shoot ourselves in the foot," Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni said. "It's not from lack of effort. It's just a lack of ... we're having to play a lot of kids who haven't led a team. When you first step in that pond and you don't have anybody else on your team that's ever done it, it creates some weird scenarios."

Sophomore guard Austin Loop's career-high 26 points went for naught as the 49ers (7-8, 1-2 C-USA) shot 52.8 percent from the floor (28 of 53) and 52.9 percent from 3-point range (9 of 17).

Six of those Charlotte 3-pointers came in the game's first nine minutes and on just seven attempts. A couple of those long-range shots came with wide-open looks.

"I would say it was moving the ball from side to side," Henry said, "having the defense move. We set a lot of ball screens and they would try to keep us on one side. So we tried to attack those gaps and it allowed the help side to crowd the paint.

"We do a good job of spacing the floor and spotting," he added, "because we have great shooters and they were able to knock it down."

Loop said the 49ers' hot 3-point shooting to start the game came in part from being a step slow at times on defense.

"A couple of rotations were late," Loop said. "We had a couple of stunts at the top of the key and they space well. Their weak-side guys get to the corner well. We were kind of late on some of our rotations and they were hot and knocked them down."

Charlotte's seven and final 3-pointer of the first half came with time running out, when Henry handed off to Keyshawn Woods, who drained the shot from the left wing to give the 49ers a 41-36 halftime lead. Charlotte led by as many as 14 in the second half, but the Herd battled back with a lot of help from Loop.

The sophomore's previous career high was 17, scored against Division II King University on Dec. 16. Loop scored 15 in the second half against the 49ers, hitting 3 of 5 shots beyond the arc in that span. Saturday's game was his fifth straight scoring in double figures and 11th of the season.

"After my first couple, I heard their coach getting on them about staying with me," Loop said. "A couple times, they might have just let down and kind of lost me in their zone."

The Herd kept the contest within two possessions for the final 2:34, after Jay Johnson responded to a Woods jumper with a 3-pointer to cut Charlotte's lead to 72-68. After that, though, Marshall went 0-for-2 from the floor with two turnovers.

It was another successful trip back for Henry to his home state. Last season, he scored 26 points in a Charlotte win. This time, he led the 49ers with 19 points, nine assists, six steals and five rebounds.

"Just looking in the stands and being able to see my family and seeing them get out of their seats and they're sweating bullets just like I am, it excites me," he said. "It makes me want to fight through it even more and give them a show to watch."

Ryan Taylor was Marshall's only other double-digit scorer, finishing with 12 points and seven rebounds. Freshman point guard Aleksa Nikolic scored nine points with a team-high six assists and five rebounds.

Woods finished with 18 points, hitting 4 of 5 from 3-point range. Dorn added 12 points and Terrence Williams scored 11 points with eight rebounds.

Marshall returns to the road for a two-game Florida swing starting Thursday, when the Herd visits Florida International at 7:30 p.m., then heads to Florida Atlantic on Saturday, Jan. 17 for a 5:30 p.m. game.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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