www.charlestondailymail.com Marshall Sports http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2015, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Yurachek ready for bigger role with Marshall http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150325/DM03/150329398 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150325/DM03/150329398 Wed, 25 Mar 2015 22:59:49 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - On the first day of the Marshall football team's spring practice, tight end Ryan Yurachek was discussing his growth into a leader. It was a little surprising, considering he'll be just a sophomore this season. And not so surprising, considering he was an Conference USA all-freshman pick who is the Thundering Herd's leading returning tight end.

But the young Yurachek believes he's ready to be that leader among the players in his unit - he and rising fifth-year senior Joe Woodrum helping counsel junior college newcomer Emanuel Byrd and redshirt freshman Kaleb Harris - and add to his on-field contributions.

The Myrtle Beach, S.C., product was a contributor from the Herd's first game of the season, though much of that in the beginning came on special teams. Senior Eric Frohnapfel shouldered the lion's share of the burden at tight end.

Yet as the season went on, Yurachek worked his way into the Herd's offense.

"It's helpful to have that experience last year and get the production I did," he said. "It's helped me out as far as meetings, where I can step up in more of a leadership role and let them know what I went through."

Yurachek finished 2014 with 17 catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns. One of those scores is a piece of Marshall history, the touchdown against Florida International that allowed former quarterback Rakeem Cato to break the Football Bowl Subdivision record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass.

Marshall coaches always hope the freshmen they welcome each year make early contributions, but offensive coordinator Bill Legg said the moment the switch flips is different for different players. Some need years to acclimate to college football. Others take to that level right away. Yurachek populated that latter group.

"I can't say I expected it to happen that fast," Legg said, "but on the other hand, I can't say I'm surprised it happened that fast, just because he's a very intelligent kid. He comes from an athletic background, from his whole family.

"He's not only an intelligent kid, but he's football smart, so he picked up things relatively quick. And as the season went along and he got more and more snaps, he got more and more comfortable and people became more and more comfortable around him."

Yurachek's time at tight end probably will be a bit different from Frohnapfel's. Frohnapfel was a leaner, lankier player, standing 6-foot-7 and 235 pounds. Yurachek is 231 pounds, but stands at 6-3. He feels, though, that his stockier frame will help him remain a versatile cog in Marshall's offense.

"I'm more of an H-back kind of a guy that can play the slot, play the backfield and play on the end line more," Yurachek said. "You want to be all three of those positions. You want to be able to play on the end line, to play in the slot and play in the backfield. You want to be the all-around player."

Legg thinks Yurachek's dimensions more closely resemble those of former tight end Gator Hoskins, a 6-1, 248-pounder who played last year for the Miami Dolphins. He also thinks Yurachek's size will lead to greater versatility, which is essential in the Herd's offensive scheme.

"That's a critical piece to the puzzle for us," Legg said, "because it allows us to stay in the same personnel grouping but yet run formations inclusive of three or four personnel groupings."

The more groupings Yurachek can join, the more time he'll spend on the field, which can physically tax a player moving from understudy to starter. That's why he spent the months between the end of 2014 and now making sure he's in peak condition for the larger workload.

"It's Day 1, and I'm sure I'll give you a different answer on Day 9," he said. "But I've worked hard this offseason to get in the best possible shape I could. I think that'll pay off on Day 9."

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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Race to decide new Marshall QB begins http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150324/DM03/150329535 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150324/DM03/150329535 Tue, 24 Mar 2015 23:06:37 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Gunnar Holcombe is approaching this spring as a mission to become the Marshall University football team's new starting quarterback, not to replace four-year starter Rakeem Cato.

Looking at this next five weeks of practice as a quest to succeed the Thundering Herd's career passing leader and the quarterback of three bowl wins in four years could consume a player, Holcombe said. So he's trying to stay relaxed in this race, which began Tuesday with the start of Marshall's spring practice.

"I'm just going out and having fun," Holcombe said. "If you play uptight and say, 'I've got to replace Cato. I've got to live up to all the quarterbacks that have been here,' you're not going to play to your potential."

Holcombe also said the other contenders for the title - Michael Birdsong, Cole Garvin and Chase Litton - are viewing the battle the same way.

"If you watch us play, we all have fun," he said. "If you go out there and try to be too uptight, you're going to make mistakes."

The race to replace Cato will have as much to do with minds as it will with arms, Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. Of course, he wants a quarterback who can maintain the Herd's gaudy offensive numbers, but finding a leader on and off the field is as crucial.

"Intangibles at that position are as important as skills," Holliday said, "the leadership that's involved in it, the confidence the rest of the team has in you and all that."

Offensive coordinator Bill Legg said all four quarterbacks have the physical talents and mental acumen to succeed under center. But there are other things he's looking for as well.

"When there's 21 other guys running around out there and it's total chaos, at the end of the day, the guy that's been able to manage the chaos the best will be the guy that turns out," Legg said.

Marshall has had experience in replacing standout veteran quarterbacks. Back in the 1990s, the Herd transitioned from Chad Pennington, whose Marshall's career records Cato broke last year, to Byron Leftwich. After three Mid-American Conference titles with Pennington, the Herd won two with Leftwich. Pennington - who joined Marshall and West Virginia University officials at the Greenbrier last week to announce Herd and Mountaineer spring intrasquad scrimmages in April - agreed that finding the right leader is paramount.

"You look for the guy who you're comfortable with handing the team over to," Pennington said, "putting the team in his hands and watching him mold the team into the team it needs to be.

"It's always a unique transition. When it went from me to Byron, Byron and I had a lot of similarities and we also had some differences, based on our backgrounds and who we are. At the core of our being is the love for our teammates, our team and our university, and I think that's most important. I think we both led our teams with respect and dignity and always tried to remember the teams that came before us."

The advantage for Holcombe, who entered the spring atop the Herd depth chart, is experience within Marshall's system. A rising redshirt junior, he's entering his fourth year within the Herd's offensive scheme. He also was Cato's backup and has one thing over every other contender this spring - in-game participation in a Marshall uniform, abbreviated as it was. In mop-up duty, Holcombe completed 12 of 21 passes for 119 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.

"I think it helped because it dusted the cobwebs off," Holcombe said. "I came here and sat for two years under Cato and Blake (Frohnapfel), then Blake transferred out and I got my chance to play and get in some live action and see the difference in speed at the college level."

Birdsong, unavailable Tuesday because of an evening class, doesn't have game experience in a Herd jersey. The former James Madison player had to sit last season due to NCAA transfer rules. But he does have something none of the other Marshall signal-callers have - starting experience.

The rising redshirt junior started two games for the Dukes in 2012 and all 12 of their games in 2013. His final year at JMU, Birdsong completed 227 of 376 passes (60.4 percent) for 2,728 yards, 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The Dukes went 6-6 that season, including a 35-33 loss to Akron and a 34-7 win over Charlotte.

Garvin, a rising redshirt freshman, and Litton, an incoming freshman who enrolled in January to participate in spring, have plenty of time to develop.

Marshall coaches would love to decide a starter by the end of spring. And Legg said there's only so much one can evaluate when players are in helmets, jerseys and shorts, as Marshall will be the first three days of spring. But Legg and the quarterbacks know that the clock is ticking.

"As we get through probably the end of next week, then the narrowing process will probably begin," Legg said. "Because, by then, we'll have the bulk of our base offense in and we'll have a better feel because we'll have been in pads at least four of those six practices. And we'll have a better feel for where each of those guys are individually. And the guy that's furthest along in development will move to the front. That's when the race really begins, in my mind."

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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Holliday hopes to settle on Marshall's new QB by end of spring (video) http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150323/DM03/150329651 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150323/DM03/150329651 Mon, 23 Mar 2015 23:21:32 -0400 By Derek Redd

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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - In Marshall football coach Doc Holliday's perfect world, the mystery of the Thundering Herd's next starting quarterback will be solved by the end of spring practice.

Holliday said during Monday's pre-spring press conference that it would be best if the Herd knew heading into the summer who would fill the void left by departed senior Rakeem Cato.

"It's huge, as far as a leadership standpoint," Holliday said. "It's their team. They can provide leadership throughout the summer."

That void is massive. A four-year starter, Cato guided the Herd to three wins in three bowl games. He was the 2012 Conference USA MVP and offensive player of the year in 2013 and 2014. As a senior, Marshall went 13-1, won its first C-USA title, thumped Mid-American conference champ Northern Illinois in the Boca Raton Bowl and Cato left Marshall as its career leader in completions, attempts, passing yards and passing touchdowns.

When spring practice opens Tuesday afternoon at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, there will be three quarterbacks on the depth chart - rising redshirt junior Gunnar Holcombe, rising redshirt junior Michael Birdsong and rising redshirt freshman Cole Garvin. Incoming freshman Chase Litton, a Tampa, Fla., product who enrolled in January to practice this spring, also will take snaps.

Holcombe was Cato's understudy last season, completing 12 of 21 passes for 119 yards in mop-up duty. Birdsong sat last season as a transfer from James Madison, but started there and was named one of Marshall's top two scout team players. Garvin also sat last year as a redshirt.

The Herd opens the 2015 campaign at home versus Big Ten foe Purdue, so it becomes even more important in Holliday's estimation that Cato's successor be known before the offseason.

"We hope that happens," Holliday said. "At the quarterback position, if somebody doesn't separate ... I think I've said it many times, if you've got two or three, chances are you don't have any. Normally there's some separation that occurs there with that No. 1 guy."

n n n

SEVERAL UNITS on Marshall's team had their marching orders last year - raise your game. Holliday said those challenges worked, and pointed to the Herd's outside receivers, running backs and defensive line as areas where he saw marked improvement.

Those challenges have gone out this year, too. Holliday wants to see what rising sophomore Hyleck Foster can do in replacing Tommy Shuler at slot receiver. The linebackers have to replace the production lost with the departure of seniors Neville Hewitt, the C-USA defensive player of the year, and Jermaine Holmes. Plus the corners must make up for the departure of senior Darryl Roberts.

"There's a lot of guys ... it's almost like camp," Holliday said. "Starting in August, a lot of new faces start to show up. And there's a lot of new ones out there this spring. There's a lot of young guys I'm anxious to see."

There are a few position changes as well. Michael Selby moves from starting right guard to starting center, with Cody Collins stepping into Selby's old spot. Slot receiver Deandre Reaves will experiment at corner, while last year's kickoff specialist, Kaare Vedvik, will work this spring at punter.

n n n

THE HERD will have a number of players limited or out due to rehabbing injuries. Among them is Doak Walker semifinalist running back Devon Johnson (shoulder), running back Remi Watson (shoulder), linebacker Evan McKelvey (knee), corner Corey Tindal (elbow) and safety Tiquan Lang (hernia). Lang also will be away from the team this spring due to personal issues, and Holliday said he should return this summer.

Holliday added that linebacker Kent Turene's injury-riddled Marshall career is over. He was medically disqualified and is scheduled to graduate this summer. The well-regarded prospect from Atlanta Sports Academy played just three games over two seasons due several maladies, including ankle and knee injuries.

n n n

CONFERENCE USA announced Monday that Marshall will play a second game outside of the traditional Saturday slot, moving the Herd's home game against Southern Mississippi from Saturday, Oct. 10 to Friday, Oct. 9, at 7 p.m.to accommodate national television. Broadcast details will be announced at a later date.

Marshall already had its season opener versus Purdue moved to Sunday, Sept. 6, at 3 p.m. The Herd also has played the Friday after Thanksgiving the last three seasons and its rematch against Western Kentucky - which knocked Marshall from the ranks of the unbeatens in their 2014 regular-season finale - could be a tantalizing choice to move to "Black Friday" from its current Saturday, Nov. 28 slot.

"I'm going to sit here and tell you I like a shorter week for the second game, but you can't turn down the exposure," Holliday said. "From a recruiting standpoint, from everything, you just can't say no."

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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Derek Redd: Marshall has questions to answer in spring football http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150323/DM03/150329652 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150323/DM03/150329652 Mon, 23 Mar 2015 23:19:25 -0400 By Derek Redd CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Let's get this out of the way right off the bat.

The race to replace Rakeem Cato as Marshall's starting quarterback is the most crucial component of the Marshall football team's spring session.

Thus ends this week's edition of "Sports Analysis by Professor Obvious."

There is no doubt that Marshall must find Cato's successor. And there is no doubt that succeeding the Thundering Herd's career leader in most major passing categories won't be easy. But that is not the only important question Marshall must answer in this next month's worth of practices. It's just the flashiest one concerning the most prominent position in the sport.

There are several other questions that folks from afar might not pay much attention to, but Marshall coaches will spend every day trying to solve.

Who is the new marquee corner?

Take Darryl Roberts' numbers on the field in 2014 - 75 tackles, 17 pass breakups and one interception. Add to those his numbers at Marshall's 2015 pro day - a 4.36 40-yard dash, a 39-inch vertical jump and 23 reps in bench pressing 225 pounds. The senior was a physical specimen who turned that athletic ability into an all-Conference USA first-team season last year.

And now the Herd has to deal with life without him. In Marshall's defense, good corner play is integral.

"If you start to build our defense, it starts at the corner position," Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. "You talk about what we do defensively, it starts at the corner position and moves into the nickel position because of the press coverages and everything you've got to be able to play. So you build it from the outside in, and it's all predicated on what those corners can do."

One such corner, rising junior Corey Tindal, will spend a lot of the spring watching and rehabbing an injured elbow. On the other hand, rising fifth-year senior Keith Baxter had his first healthy winter in a long time. And rising sophomore Antavis Rowe impressed plenty of people in his C-USA all-freshman team finish last year.

Who fills the gaps on the defensive line?

Three of the four starters on Marshall's defensive line in the Boca Raton Bowl - ends Arnold Blackmon and Ra'Shawde Myers and tackle James Rouse - were seniors. All three were plenty disruptive in the trenches. How far of a step back will that unit take now that all three are gone?

Holliday doesn't think there will be any stepping back at all.

"I think we'll be deeper at defensive line than we were a year ago," Holliday said.

The lone returning starter, tackle Jarquez Samuel, will be joined by Steve Dillon in the middle. End Gary Thompson, who missed much of last season with a leg injury, begins spring in the starting lineup, as does fellow end Joe Massaquoi. And Holliday had good things to say about Armonze Daniel, Tomell One and UCF transfer Blake Keller.

So it looks like there will be plenty of linemen to choose from, but it remains to be seen if they can match Blackmon, Myers and Rouse's production.

What form will Marshall's offense take?

If you're looking for that question to be answered in the spring, guess again. Running back and 2014 Doak Walker semifinalist Devon Johnson, who led C-USA with 1,767 yards and 17 touchdowns, is coming back from a shoulder injury and will be limited this spring. For Marshall's offense to click anywhere near the way it did last season, he has to be healthy and on the field.

With him and fellow back Remi Watson on the shelf, it'll be up to Steward Butler and Tony Pittman to carry the load this spring in Marshall's running game. That shallow depth at running back might coax Marshall's coaches to take to the air more often. And that might not be a bad idea, since the Herd must evaluate four quarterbacks - Gunnar Holcombe, Michael Birdsong, Cole Garvin and Chase Litton - this spring.

Which brings us back to the most obvious question of Marshall's spring. It's just not the only question.

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Marshall announces spring football schedule http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150323/DM03/150329657 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150323/DM03/150329657 Mon, 23 Mar 2015 23:06:57 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall University football program has announced its 2015 spring practice schedule, highlighted by an April 11 scrimmage at The Greenbrier, an April 18 scrimmage in Huntington and the April 25 Green and White spring game, presented by Kroger.

Per last week's announcement, the April 11 scrimmage will be held at The Greenbrier from 3-5 p.m.

The practices are open to the public but the April 18 scrimmage is open only to Big Green members, Marshall students and season ticket holders. Those wishing to join the Big Green to gain admittance to the scrimmage will be able to do so on-site. Fans may enter through Gate A, located on the west side of the stadium. Individuals will be asked to present their Big Green membership card. Students must present a valid MU ID. Gate A will open 30 minutes prior to the start of the practice/scrimmages.

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C-USA moves MU-Southern Miss game for TV http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150323/DM03/150329659 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150323/DM03/150329659 Mon, 23 Mar 2015 23:04:49 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall-Southern Miss football game, originally scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 10 has been moved to Friday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. ET by the Conference USA office for national television. Broadcast details will be announced at a later date.

Also, Marshall's Oct. 24 home date against North Texas will serve as the University's Homecoming game. A kickoff time has yet to be the determined, pending the release of the league's television schedule.

Marshall, who starts spring practice Tuesday, has won four consecutive games over the Golden Eagles, including last year's 63-17 affair in Hattiesburg.

The Thundering Herd is coming off a 13-1 season, with a first Conference USA championship, final Top 25 rankings and a Boca Raton Bowl victory over Group of Five power Northern Illinois.

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MU women fall to Mercer in WBI quarters http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150323/DM03/150329740 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150323/DM03/150329740 Mon, 23 Mar 2015 09:51:51 -0400 The Marshall women's basketball team saw its late seven-point lead disappear in a 73-71 loss to Mercer on Sunday in the quarterfinals of the Women's Basketball Invitational. The Thundering Herd ends its season at 17-15.

Marshall held a 70-63 lead over the Bears (20-14) with 3:11 left in the game, but scored only one more point after that, a Leah Scott free throw with 1:27 left. Mercer went 8 for 12 from the free throw line in the final 3:11, while Marshall went 0 for 4 from the floor with three turnovers in that same span.

Scott led Marshall with 26 points, adding six rebounds and two blocks. Mercer's Precious Bridges led all scorers with 35 points, adding five rebounds and four assists.

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Herd women to visit Northern Kentucky in WBI http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150317/DM03/150319126 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150317/DM03/150319126 Tue, 17 Mar 2015 22:14:44 -0400 Herd women to play in WBI

Marshall's women's basketball team will visit Northern Kentucky at 7 p.m. Thursday in the first round of the Women's Basketball Invitational, just the second postseason bid for the Thundering Herd in the NCAA era.

Marshall's only other postseason berth came in the 1997 NCAA tournament, where the Southern Conference tournament champion Herd lost to Colorado in the first round.

The Herd (16-14) is the No. 8 seed in the WBI's East Region. The winner between Marshall and the top-seeded Norse (19-13) will face the winner betweeen No. 4 seed Mercer and No. 5 seed Troy. The 16-team event will take place over the next two weeks, with all games played on campus sites. First round games will tip off Wednesday and Thursday, with second-round games Saturday and Sunday. The tournament semifinals will be held either Wednesday, March 25 or Thursday, March 26 and the championship game will be held the weekend of March 28-29.

Marshall is 0-5 all time versus NKU, the last game coming in 1981. The Norse reached this season's Atlantic Sun championship game, while Marshall fell in the first round of the Conference USA tournament to Charlotte.

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WVU, Marshall bring spring practice to Greenbrier (video) http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150316/DM03/150319265 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150316/DM03/150319265 Mon, 16 Mar 2015 22:08:13 -0400 By Derek Redd

(On our app? See video here)

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - The West Virginia University and Marshall University football teams both will inhabit the AdvoCare Sports Performance Center at The Greenbrier this April. As far as the Mountaineers and Thundering Herd sharing the same football field on a future regular season schedule, that was a discussion to be left for another day.

Representatives from both athletic programs - athletic director Shane Lyons, football coach Dana Holgorsen and former star tight end Anthony Becht for WVU and AD Mike Hamrick and former star quarterback Chad Pennington for Marshall - were at the facility Monday morning to discuss the spring intrasquad scrimmages both teams will hold next month. Hamrick said Marshall coach Doc Holliday was away on a previously scheduled Florida fishing trip with his father.

The Herd will scrimmage first, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on April 11. WVU will scrimmage at the facility, which housed part of the New Orleans Saints 2014 training camp, on April 18, at a time to be determined. Admission is free for both scrimmages, but transportation and parking tickets will be $10 per adult and must be purchased by the day before either event.

Greenbrier owner Jim Justice said those two scrimmages will give many in the region their first chance to see those teams up close. He remembered a story of a high school student he had befriended and that student's experience going to Charleston for the state basketball tournament, seeing the state capital and just eating in the mall food court.

"There's a lot of, believe me, die-hard fans that love WVU and love Marshall beyond all good sense that never will have the opportunity to see you in person," Justice said. "They sit tuned to the radio or glued to the TV and could never fathom being able to see you, and you've given them that opportunity."

The Mountaineers' spring schedule had taken a barnstorming feel last year, when Holgorsen and the team practiced in Wheeling and Charleston. WVU's coach said these teams visiting other parts of the state doesn't just benefit the fans of those areas. It can expand the players' minds, too, and allow them to experience regions outside their schools' city limits.

"These kids get out in the state of West Virginia and see different parts of one of the best states in the United States, see some of the prettiest land in the United States and get to sit down and talk to some of the best people in the United States," Holgorsen said.

"They really liked it," he continued. "The next year we started talking about where we needed to go, and there isn't a better place in all of West Virginia to be able to come and spend some time than here at the Greenbrier."

Marshall and WVU players also will get a glimpse into what comes with an NFL facility. The $30 million center includes training rooms, weight rooms and meeting rooms, plus grass and turf practice fields, all of which the Saints used during their stay.

Pennington said that those types of facilities would have been great motivators had he gotten access to them during his standout Marshall career.

"I think the most important thing it would have done was reiterate and re-emphasize to you as a young student-athlete, if you have aspirations of playing at the next level, it keeps that there and keeps that dream alive," Pennington said. "It reinvigorates you to work even harder and to see past the four wall you're in within your university."

With the Herd and Mountaineers sharing a press conference room Monday and the Greenbrier's facilities in April, was there a chance that the Marshall-WVU football series - dormant since 2012 - could find new life?

Both Pennington and Becht, first-round picks of the New York Jets in 2000, played in the 1997 contest in Morgantown that WVU won, 42-31. They both understand the logistics issues that come with filling college football schedules, but both also remember how much they enjoyed the atmosphere around that game.

"It was probably the best experience for me from a fan standpoint," Becht said, "just to fill the stadium, outside at the tailgates ... it was great. It just made it a great, traditional experience for me. When I see Chad, every time we talk or every time we see each other, something will come up, maybe a photo we see, that rehashes a memory for us."

Lyons - hired in January to replace Oliver Luck, who took a job with the NCAA - has not yet been able to sit with Holgorsen to discuss future schedules. It's like putting together a puzzle, he said, and the mission is to make the pieces fit in a way that best benefits the football program.

"That's something where we'll sit down ... I know the schedule is done for the next couple of years ... and we'll continue to sit down and look at future schedules and see where we're at as an institution," Lyons said.

Hamrick met Lyons on Monday at the Greenbrier. The two realized they're actually distant cousins - Lyons' mother's maiden name was Hamrick. He reiterated Marshall's desire to play WVU again and how it benefits the state. He added that Lyons needs time to settle into his new role in guiding the Mountaineer athletic program, and that both schools have other important matters to deal with on top of trying to resurrect the football game.

"They've got their issues and I've got my issues," Hamrick said. "I'm sure at some point we'll have that discussion, but let's give the guy a chance to get moved in first."

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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Derek Redd: Herd hoops outperformed gloomy predictions http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150316/DM03/150319267 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150316/DM03/150319267 Mon, 16 Mar 2015 22:01:39 -0400 By Derek Redd CHARLESTON, W.Va. - When news broke last April that Dan D'Antoni would become Marshall's new men's basketball coach, the reaction, at least in some pockets of the social media universe, was pretty cold. Two national college basketball reporters, ESPN's Jeff Goodman and CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish, weren't impressed, and made that abundantly clear on their Twitter feeds.

"Can't wait to get started on my annual Coaching Grades," Goodman wrote. "Gonna be awfully tempting to give this Dan D'Antoni hire a D."

Parrish wrote: "I got a text from the NBA side predicting Marshall's hire 'will be the worst thing you've ever witnessed.' Hahahaha."

From Goodman: "Conference USA coaches are texting me at a furious rate downright giddy by the fact that Marshall hired Dan D'Antoni."

And from Parrish: "All jokes aside, this is baffling to college and NBA folks. Nobody sees it working."

Yet if you look at it, the first year of D'Antoni's tenure worked just as well - and, in some spots, better - than the final year of former coach Tom Herrion's tenure. Marshall won 11 games total in 2014-15, just as many as last season. The Thundering Herd won seven conference games, three more than last season.

The last time the Herd at least matched its win totals from the previous year? The 2009-10 season. Since then, win totals had declined each season until this one.

Oh, and Goodman bumped the grade a bit on the D'Antoni hire, ultimately giving it a D-plus. He also gave Florida Atlantic's hire of former Detroit Pistons head coach Michael Curry a C-minus ... and the Owls missed the Conference USA tournament with the league's worst record.

He graded Tennessee's hiring of Donnie Tyndall a B. Granted, that was before he led the Volunteers - who made the Sweet 16 last season under Cuonzo Martin - to losses in 11 of its last 15 games. That also was before the news that Tyndall's old school, Southern Mississippi, held itself out of the postseason during an NCAA investigation of alleged improprieties that happened during Tyndall's time there.

And I wonder which C-USA coaches were texting Goodman. For their sakes, it shouldn't have been UTEP's Tim Floyd or Western Kentucky's Ray Harper. Both the Miners and Hilltoppers, top-five seeds in the conference tournament, fell to Marshall in Huntington this year. Anyone think that might have helped stick the Miners in the NIT despite 22 wins and Western Kentucky home for the postseason despite 20 wins?

And as for the "worst thing you've ever witnessed," Marshall basketball was far from that. It definitely wasn't winning any beauty contests at some points, especially that streak where the Herd went more than two months without a win over a Division I opponent. When it wasn't working, it wasn't working at all.

But a mostly inexperienced roster finally got used to a vastly different system than it was used to running and, when the 3-pointers fell and the cutting lanes were open, it was pretty fun to watch.

Let's talk about that roster for a moment. Two of last season's top three scorers either transferred or were dismissed. D'Antoni also dismissed the second-leading rebounder, a guy who would have fit very well as the team's center.

Austin Loop, who led Marshall in minutes played this year and led C-USA in 3-pointers made and free-throw percentage, played a grand total of 75 minutes the year before. Ryan Taylor evolved from low-post grinder to versatile point forward and all-conference third-teamer.

Past the evolution on the court, D'Antoni tried to stir the echoes of his time in Huntington as a Marshall Athletics Hall of Fame point guard. During his introduction last April, he talked about a packed Veterans Memorial Fieldhouse, chanting in unison, "Bring on the Herd."

The Cam Henderson Center wasn't packed this past season, but there were more people in the seats. D'Antoni made sure the pep band played a prominent part in the game experience, and always had the team stand before it after the game as it played "Sons of Marshall," even as they walked off the floor of Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Ala., last week after getting knocked out of the conference tournament.

"I think we've established a lot of things," D'Antoni said. "It's more than a team. These guys helped establish a program. I think we took the first step that way. We certainly have a lot of work to do, but we've got four kids sitting out right now that will be with us and can be difference-makers."

That foursome - guards Stevie Browning, Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks and forward James Kelly - will be joined by incoming freshman Christian Thieneman in hopes of filling in some gaps, among them deeper outside shooting and more low-post athleticism.

D'Antoni's maiden voyage as Marshall's head coach wasn't an overnight success, but it didn't fulfill the gloomy predictions of some national voices. Now the Herd must reverse those opinions in the future, and the only way to do that is build upon the foundation laid this season.

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Marshall men will continue to evolve this offseason http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150312/DM03/150319569 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150312/DM03/150319569 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 22:51:34 -0400 By Derek Redd BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Marshall's men's basketball program has undergone a lot of change over the past 12 months. One head coach departed and another arrived. Several players came and went as well.

Yet one should not expect the team's transformation to end now that the Thundering Herd's season is over, a result of its 59-45 loss to Western Kentucky at Legacy Arena in the Conference USA tournament's first round. Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni said the team's evolution will continue, especially when new faces populate the roster.

Some pundits predicted a tough year for the Herd after D'Antoni - in his first year as college head coach after decades as a high school head coach and NBA assistant under his brother Mike - was introduced. Those calls got stronger as some players left the team.

Among them was point guard Kareem Canty, an all-C-USA third team pick as a freshman, who announced his intentions to transfer soon after former coach Tom Herrion left and ultimately transferred to Auburn. D'Antoni later dismissed guard Chris Thomas and post player TyQuane Goard for team rules violations. Thomas was the team's third-leading scorer and Goard was its second-leading rebounder.

Marshall did struggle, finishing the season 11-21 overall and 7-11 in conference, including a stretch where the Herd lost 15 of 16 games. But those 11 overall wins matched last season's total and the seven conference wins eclipsed last season's total of four. The last time that occurred at Marshall was the 2009-10 campaign, when the Herd finished 24-10 overall and 11-5 in C-USA after finishing 15-17 overall and 7-9 in C-USA the year before.

"I think there were times this year that we played some really excellent basketball," D'Antoni said. "The game we beat Western Kentucky at our place, that was a high-level game played extremely well by both teams."

Marshall did score a couple of upsets this season, beating both WKU and UTEP at home. In the process, sophomore Ryan Taylor emerged as a versatile team leader, an all-C-USA third-team pick who was the only conference player to finish the regular season in the top 13 in points, rebounds and assists. Sophomore Austin Loop went from little-used walk-on last season to the conference's leader in both free-throw percentage and 3-pointers made this season.

D'Antoni said this year's team established a base level of attitude and performance off which future teams will build.

"They've initiated how we're going to play," he said. "They've initiated how hard we're going to work in practice because every day they came and every day it was a pleasure to be there and coach with them. I told them in the locker room that I learned a great deal about how to manage time with young men and what to look for."

One thing D'Antoni will look for is impact from five new faces, four of which already are on campus. The Herd will say goodbye to seniors J.P. Kambola, Cheikh Sane and Shawn Smith. Smith, who injured his shoulder in the season's fifth game, had an opportunity for a medical hardship waiver, but D'Antoni said Wednesday that Smith chose to finish his college career back in his home state of California.

The four players already on campus are Miami transfer forward James Kelly, Fairmont State transfer guard Stevie Browning, Virginia Military Institute transfer guard Jon Elmore - a former George Washington and South Charleston star who should be eligible at the end of the fall semester - and former Hedgesville star guard C.J. Burks, who sat this season as an academic non-qualifier. D'Antoni said all four could be "difference-makers." They'll be joined by forward Christian Thieneman, a standout at Trinity High School in Louisville, Ky.

Those players should provide deeper shooting, which the Herd lacked this season. It was evident in its C-USA tournament loss to WKU. Justin Edmonds, who had become a solid complement to Loop on the outside, had injured his knee last Saturday at Charlotte and was unavailable Wednesday. With him out, the Hilltoppers were able to key on Loop, holding him to just 1-of-2 shooting from 3-point range. The rest of the team combined to shoot just 2 of 17 from beyond the arc.

Taylor can't wait to work those new players into D'Antoni's system.

"I feel like the future is bright for us," Taylor said. "The guys sitting out that are coming in to play next year, we're going to have a lot of time to play together. We just want to bring the program back to the top where it was, bring home a couple of conference championships and make some appearances in the (NCAA) tournament."

D'Antoni admits plenty of work remains to reach that level. He does feel, though, that the foundation was set by a group of players who adapted to year's worth of transitions and showed flashes of promise along the way.

"I thought for what we were and who we were, I'm very proud of them," he said. "I've been around a lot of great teams and some teams that weren't so great. This team, for what we are and who we are at Marshall University, it was wonderful to be a part of."

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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College baseball roundup: WVU travels to Texas; Herd hosts UTSA http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150312/DM03/150319576 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150312/DM03/150319576 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 21:44:34 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

West Virginia University begins Big 12 conference play this weekend, traveling to Austin, Texas to play No. 16 Texas (11-6). The series opener on Friday will begin at 7 p.m. and Saturday's game is set for 6 p.m., with both games scheduled to air on the Longhorn Network. Sunday's game will be televised nationally on Fox Sports 1 at 1:30 p.m.

Both teams come into the series on respective three-game winning streaks, with the Mountaineers (7-6) having just completed a three-game sweep of ETSU.

Marshall (6-8) also opens its conference slate on Friday hosting UTSA (9-7) at 9 a.m. at Epling Stadium in Beckley. Saturday and Sunday's games are both scheduled for 1 p.m., but could be adjusted with rain anticipated in the local forecast.

The series will be the first games the Herd baseball team has played in West Virginia this season after Tuesday's contest in Huntington against Akron was canceled. Marshall comes into the game having won two out of three games in a series against George Mason.

The University of Charleston baseball team travels to Washington, Pa., to take on West Liberty (6-3) at 3 p.m. on Friday and 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. The Golden Eagles (3-1) just completed their first series of the season after having their first six games postponed, taking three of four games from Fairmont State.

West Virginia State University hosts Wheeling Jesuit in a pair of double-headers at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at Buffalo High School. The games will also be the first inside the state's borders for the Yellow Jackets (1-6), who had to move the games to the local high school facility due to field conditions at Calvin L. Bailey Field. The Cardinals (1-4) come into this weekend's games on a four-game losing streak.

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WKU bounces Marshall out of C-USA hoops tournament http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150311/DM03/150319710 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150311/DM03/150319710 Wed, 11 Mar 2015 23:03:30 -0400 By Derek Redd BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Marshall's men's basketball team won the battle of who could shoot worse Wednesday night in the Conference USA tournament's opening round. That competition with Western Kentucky, though, was neck-and-neck for a long time.

The Hilltoppers, however, won the game, 59-45, at Legacy Arena to end the Thundering Herd's season.

J.P. Kambola was Marshall's lone double-figure scorer, finishing with 12 points and nine rebounds. Chris Harrison-Docks scored a game-high 18 points for the Hilltoppers.

"I was proud of how the kids manned up," Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni said. "We hung in there for a long, long time. I thought they represented our school well."

Western Kentucky advances to face the UAB on Thursday.

For a while, it looked like the 12th-seeded Herd might finally reverse its awful road fortunes when it counted the most. After Kambola was fouled while dunking over Harrison-Docks with 10:26 left in the game, he cashed in on the ensuing free throw to cut what was an eight-point lead to two at 41-38.

"We knew it was going to be a close game the whole time," sophomore Ryan Taylor said. "When J.P. got the three-point play off that dunk, he gave us a lot of momentum. We knew we had the confidence to beat them, because we beat them before."

But little did the Herd (11-21) know, the No. 5-seed Hilltoppers (20-11) were in the middle of a streak where they made 9 of 13 from the floor to extend their lead to 59-43.

"We did a good job at times of making the extra pass," WKU coach Ray Harper said, "turning down a good shot for a great shot. I just think it was sharing the ball and making the next play."

That run allowed WKU to shoot 42.3 percent for the second half (11 for 26) and 35 percent for the game (21 of 60), making up for a dismal 10-for-34 shooting performance in the first half.

Meanwhile, Marshall's first-half shooting woes - the Herd made just 8 of 33 (24.2 percent) in that period - carried over to the second. Marshall made just 10 of 26 shots after halftime (38.5 percent) and 18 of 59 for the game (30.5 percent).

D'Antoni said that was a glaring example of what losing junior guard Justin Edmonds - his knee injury Saturday against Charlotte knocked him out of Wednesday's game - and his shooting meant for Marshall's offensive hopes.

"Not having him makes it tough on Ryan," D'Antoni said. "They pack in on him and J.P., our bigs."

Taylor, Marshall's all-C-USA third-team pick, finished with eight points and nine rebounds and made just 4 of 20 shots from the floor, missing all seven of his 3-point attempts.

With Edmonds out of Wednesday's game, Marshall started junior Tamron Manning with usual starters Taylor, Austin Loop, Aleksa Nikolic and Kambola. It was the first time Marshall trotted out that starting five this season.

It didn't lead to a very good start for the Herd. Marshall missed its first eight shots from the floor and all the Herd could muster in the game's first 4:19 was one Kambola free throw to fall behind 11-1.

Yet, as poorly as Marshall began the game, it was able to pull back within striking distance. The Herd actually was a missed Cheikh Sane free throw away from tying the game with 10:10 left in the first half, settling for a 15-14 deficit.

Western Kentucky's hot start gave way to a cold finish to the first half. The Hilltoppers made 4 of their first 7 from the floor, including a pair of 3-pointers from Harrison-Docks and one from all-C-USA first teamer T.J. Price. But WKU made just 6 of 27 shots to finish the half. The 'Toppers went into halftime up 26-20.

Marshall's interior defense was solid. It helped put forward George Fant on the bench with foul trouble for all but 12 minutes in the game. Kambola finished the game with three blocks and the Herd won the rebounding battle, 44-41.

Price scored 13 points with seven rebounds and four assists for WKU, and Trency Jackson scored 11 by going 3 of 7 from 3-point range. DeVince Boykins came off the bench to score seven points for Marshall. Loop, the conference's most prolific 3-point shooter, got only two attempts from beyond the arc, making one.

"We weren't going to give him any catch-and-shoot 3s," Harper said. "If he scored, he was going to have to put the basketball on the floor."

The Herd's shooting issues extended to the free throw line, where Marshall made just 6 of 13 (46.2 percent). Marshall's 45 points were the fewest the Herd has scored since a 68-45 loss to Memphis on Jan. 12, 2008. Marshall finished this season 1-14 away from the Henderson Center.

Even with the loss, Marshall finishes the season with as many overall wins as last year and more Conference USA wins as last year. That's the first time that's happened for the Herd since the 2009-10 season. That year, Marshall finished 24-10 overall and 11-5 in C-USA after finishing 15-17 overall and 7-9 in C-USA the year before.

"I'm proud of these guys," D'Antoni said. "I think they changed the perception of the team at this university, in Huntington, the tri-state and southern West Virginia. They played together and played hard and that's all you can ask for."

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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Former Herd football players showcase skills at Pro Day http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150311/DM03/150319716 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150311/DM03/150319716 Wed, 11 Mar 2015 22:50:03 -0400 By Tom Bragg HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Chris Jasperse started in 53 consecutive games along the offensive line for Marshall and played in the Senior Bowl and the Medal of Honor Bowl showcase games, but an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine never came for Jasperse or any other MU player.

Wednesday, however, the opportunity for Jasperse to work out in front of NFL scouts finally came at the Thundering Herd's Pro Day at the Chris Cline Indoor Practice Facility in Huntington.

Jasperse, listed at 6-foot-5 and 296 pounds on Marshall's roster, put his work on display for scouts from the Chicago Bears, Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. He said through bowl all-star games and Wednesday's session he has received mostly positive feedback.

"A lot of the scouts thought I should have been at the combine," Jasperse said. "They told me I should have been there but it is what it is. I got to play in the Senior Bowl, which is way better than the combine, in my opinion. They got to see me do what I do best, and that's play football. I got to talk to all the teams there and just get around and speak to everyone.

"(The scouts) were just talking about me getting better every day, I'm smart, I'm durable. I started in 53 games consecutively, and that was huge to them because they say, 'Hey, you don't miss a game.' They come to practice and see I don't miss practice. It was important to them and great feedback."

Jasperse was one of 12 former Marshall players who showed off for scouts Wednesday. Daryl Roberts, Arnold Blackmon, Rakeem Cato, Tommy Shuler, Eric Frohnapfel, Neville Hewitt, Jermaine Holmes, Ra'Shawde Myers, James Rouse, former Riverside standout Raheem Waiters and Craig Wilkins went through drills with the hopes of impressing one of the many sets of eyes trained on the field.

Marshall coach Doc Holliday was also present for Wednesday's workouts and said being able to host the event, especially in the new indoor facility and away from the outdoor elements, was a great sight to see.

"This time last year we were standing out in the rain," he said. "It's just great for the kids. I'm happy for them and I know there's a lot of guys that helped themselves a lot today.

"This is what it's all about. That's the dream and that's the goal for every one of them that walked in here. They have the opportunity, this goes to the entire 32 teams in the NFL. They all get the results and they all get the video, so it's a good day for Marshall and a good day for the kids."

n n n

PREPARING FOR a football season and preparing for a football draft present a different set of challenges to players, but being able to use the work and experience gained in doing so many drills and translate it to the football field is the ultimate goal.

For Jasperse, that meant working on agility and speed.

"During football you're doing more football drills and stuff like that," he said. "Getting ready for this I'm doing a little more jumping and a little more running than I'm used to. But you know it all paid off. I didn't do as much with football drills as I think a lot of people did but that's just because I know football and that's what I've been doing for a while. I needed to work on the things I needed to work on and that's jumping and running and I think I did really good in those events."

Cato, Marshall's record-setting quarterback who said he ran a 4.65 40-yard dash on Wednesday and has been working out in his home state of Florida, agreed with his teammate that the football part of all the pre-draft hype comes naturally and that fine-tuning his skills have been a point of emphasis during the last several months.

"To be honest, for me it's not nerve-racking," Cato said. "I feel like I've been here before. I've been doing this all my life. I've got decades of playing football and just throwing in shorts and a shirt, so I just needed to come out here with a lot of energy and get everybody riled up and ready to go.

"You're not doing the things you were doing in college anymore. For me I had to work on under center stuff. The majority of my things in Florida I was just working under center and working on my 40 time. There's a lot of different things you've got to work on and what they want from you."

Roberts, a defensive back listed at 6-0 and 182 pounds on the Herd's roster, said he ran between a 4.34 and 4.35 in the 40-yard dash Wednesday and has added muscle since the end of the season. The Lakeland, Fla., native said that while being able to do well in drills and post impressive times in the 40 certainly can help catch the eye of scouts, it doesn't always translate to football skill, which is something he would like to avoid.

"When you're talking about football you've got to be in real shape," he said. "Running and football shape are two different things."

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ROBERTS IS one of a handful of Marshall players Holliday said should have been invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, but the players, like Roberts, have since done a good job of showcasing themselves to representatives from the professional teams.

"You take (Roberts') numbers and put it up against the numbers that were in the combine and he's right in the top two or three corners in the country," Holliday said. "He helped himself. He better get his bags packed because he's going to be doing a lot of traveling between now and the draft. There will probably be some scouts that may get fired too because they didn't do a very damn good job when they came to watch practice. There will be some guys around the league that raise their eyebrows and wonder why they didn't know more about him.

"Sometimes I wonder why we didn't have more guys in the combine and if you look at the numbers that some of these kids put up, several of these kids should have been in the combine. The pro scouts are saying the same thing."

The NFL Draft begins April 30 and runs through May 2 at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago.

Contact sportswriter Tom Bragg at tom.bragg@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4871. Follow him on Twitter @TomBraggSports.

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Herd's history with WKU could be a plus in tourney opener http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150310/DM03/150319863 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150310/DM03/150319863 Tue, 10 Mar 2015 22:25:20 -0400 By Derek Redd CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The Marshall men's basketball team can remind itself of one fact as they prepare for their 7 p.m. Wednesday matchup against Western Kentucky in the Conference USA tournament's opening round.

The Thundering Herd knows it can beat the Hilltoppers, because it already has.

In one of its best wins of the season, the Herd bested WKU, 87-82, at the Cam Henderson Center. Now Marshall will see if that success can carry over to Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Ala.

"We've played them many times and we're familiar with them," said sophomore Ryan Taylor, named this week to the all-C-USA third team. "Just knowing we can beat them is a big plus for our team."

It doesn't carry the same weight for the coaches, first-year Herd head coach Dan D'Antoni said, because they know the variables always can shift. WKU handled Marshall, 81-62, in Bowling Green, Ky., in January and Marshall will play Wednesday's game without starting guard Justin Edmonds, who injured his knee Saturday against Charlotte. The Herd also isn't sure how much freshman guard Alecksa Nikolic will play.

"Maybe for them, knowing if they put it together a certain way that they can," D'Antoni said, "but as a coach, everything's going to be changed. It's a whole new ballgame and a whole new set of circumstances. Whatever they throw at us, we have to counter back and see if we can't win the game."

The Herd (11-20, 7-11 C-USA) learned how to win in the second half of the season. After a span where Marshall lost 15 of 16 games, it rattled off seven wins in 10 games, including upset victories over Western Kentucky and the UTEP.

Yet Marshall stumbled into the tournament by dropping its last two regular season games, both on the road, to Old Dominion and Charlotte. That sent Marshall sliding down to the 12th and final seed in the conference tournament and an opener versus the Hilltoppers (19-11, 12-6 C-USA).

That's another fact the Herd must remember heading into Wednesday's game. It has won just one game in 14 this season away from the Henderson Center. In the last month, Marshall has lost by 39 at Middle Tennessee, by 18 at the University of Birmingham at Alabama, by 17 at ODU and by 13 at Charlotte.

Marshall remains undaunted, Taylor said. The team has scored upset wins over UTEP and WKU and won rematches during the season against the Hilltoppers, Florida International and Florida Atlantic.

"We just want to go in and compete," Taylor said. "We know we can beat some teams in front of us. We just can't get overconfident or too cocky. We know it's going to be a tough game, a dogfight. They beat us at their place and we beat them (in Huntington), so we want to get the series-ending win and move on to the next round."

D'Antoni considers his Herd still in the developmental stages of running his system. The improvements are evident in the streak of success that followed one of such difficulty. It's allowed the team's belief in its abilities to grow. But D'Antoni said the Herd cannot yet enter an arena expecting victory.

"I think we're in the stage of 'we can,' but not 'we should,'" he said. "And we have to keep getting better in order to do that."

The Herd just wanted to get into the conference tournament, something that wasn't guaranteed when Marshall had started the C-USA schedule 0-6. The team will get its opportunity to qualify for the NCAA tournament, which was all it had asked for.

"The mindset going in, I think, is let's play it and see what happens," D'Antoni said. "Just like the mindset was when we opened the season. We don't have a reputation we're defending. We don't have, I don't think, thoughts that we can't do it. We're in between. We're in between all that.

"I think we've decided we can," he added. "I think we've gotten beyond that and I think we're moving toward the expectations that we should win. But I don't think we've gotten there yet."

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's Taylor, Charlotte's Henry all-C-USA 3rd team http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150309/DM03/150309115 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150309/DM03/150309115 Mon, 9 Mar 2015 22:01:17 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Ryan Taylor's task this basketball season wasn't easy: lead a young Marshall men's team that had welcomed a new head coach and saw several key players leave.

In stepping to the forefront for the Thundering Herd, the sophomore was named to the All-Conference USA third team on Monday. Joining Taylor on the third team was Charlotte guard and former South Charleston High School star Pierria Henry.

Taylor finished the regular season averaging 14.3 points per game, 12th-best in C-USA, 8.6 rebounds per game, second best in C-USA, and 2.87 assists per game, 13th-best in C-USA. He's the only player in the conference to finish in the top 13 in all three categories.

"I'm proud of it and blessed to have that recognition," Taylor said. "But I'm just looking at the big picture now. I want to go to the (NCAA) tournament with my teammates."

To do that, Marshall (11-20, 7-11 C-USA) must win the conference tournament. The 12th-seeded Herd opens the tournament against fifth-seeded Western Kentucky at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Taylor, a member of the conference all-freshman team last season, had to lead the Herd under new coach Dan D'Antoni and without three players that played a major part in last season. Point guard Kareem Canty, an All-C-USA third teamer as a freshman, transferred to Auburn. Guard Chris Thomas, Marshall's third-leading scorer in 2013-14, and forward TyQuane Goard, the Herd's second-leading rebounder, both were dismissed for team rule violations.

Suddenly, Taylor became, by far, the most experienced player on the roster.

"I just knew coming into it, I'd have to take a bigger leadership role on and off the court," he said. "I think I've done a good job of it. We started off shaky, but late in the season, we picked it up when we needed to."

In the process, Taylor recorded a conference-best 14 double-doubles. Though Marshall went through a stretch where it lost 15 of 16 games, the Herd got it together down the stretch, at one point winning seven of 10 with upsets of Western Kentucky and the University of Texas at El Paso.

D'Antoni said Taylor's leadership role wasn't the only thing vastly different compared to last season. The sophomore transformed from a more conventional post player into a do-everything player.

"Now he's not a catcher and finisher," D'Antoni said. "He's a coordinator. He's a guy who gets out and runs the offense through the power forward (position). He's probably shot 3s more than he's ever shot in his life. He handles the ball, passes and plays a different defense than he has in the past.

"He's made big strides and we're looking for bigger strides down the road."

Henry, a senior point guard for the 49ers, also made his mark in several spots. He averaged 10.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.45 steals and 5.5 assists. His steal and assist averages lead C-USA. His steal average is ninth-best in the nation, while his assist average is 25th-best. His 562 career assists and 296 career steals are school records.

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's Loop a lock from the free throw line http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150308/DM03/150309242 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150308/DM03/150309242 Sun, 8 Mar 2015 13:02:08 -0400 By Derek Redd CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Austin Loop's free throw shooting technique recently was immortalized in poster form. It showed, step by step, from start to finish, how the Marshall men's basketball sophomore went through the motions. On that poster was a quote from late Marshall President Stephen Kopp - "Free throws win games."

If there's anyone on the Thundering Herd who would be the poster boy for proper free throw shooting, it would be Loop.

With his 3-for-4 performance from the line in Marshall's regular-season ending, 86-73 loss at Charlotte - part of a team-leading 19-point output - Loop finished the regular season schedule shooting a Conference USA-best 88.7 percent. If that accuracy holds through Marshall's C-USA tournament run, which starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday versus Western Kentucky, he could become just the third Herd player to shoot at least 90 percent from the free throw line for a season.

But Loop's free-throw shooting didn't win the Herd (11-20, 7-11 C-USA) Saturday's game, one that could have pushed Marshall higher than the final slot of the conference tournament. He hopes to make it an even bigger part of his game, adding frequency to his accuracy.

Loop will always take easy points, but he'd much rather shoot a 3-pointer in rhythm than put up free throws. Yet he was meticulous in fine-tuning his mechanics.

"I think it's just repetition, just practice," Loop said. "I know in the summer, when I would work out, I'd always have our graduate assistant Woody (Taylor), I'd have to make 10 in a row before I could finish my workout."

In 31 regular-season games, Loop has made 63 of 71 free throws. The only three Marshall players with better seasons at the line were Bunny Gibson, who made 84 of 89 (94.4 percent) in the 1977-78 season, John Milhoan, who made 63 of 69 (91.3 percent) in the 1957-58 season, and Ronald Blackshear, who made 111 of 125 (88.8 percent) in the 2002-03 season.

Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni has said that Loop's shooting ability is at a high-Division-I level. And that ability is no different at the free throw line.

"That's just talent," D'Antoni said. "He owns all that."

Loop said getting into a routine at the line makes for an effective free-throw shooter. When he sets up at the free throw line, he dribbles twice with his right, spins the ball in his hands, dribbles once with his right again, then shoots. It all plays a part in the muscle memory of the shot and usually leads to better accuracy.

Loop admits that he could spend even more time at the line, which means spending more time driving to the basket. The guard already is Conference USA's most prolific 3-point shooter. His 83 baskets from beyond the arc is the most in the conference and sixth-most in Marshall single-season history. But he wants to add even more facets to his game.

"That's really what I'm going to focus on this offseason," he said. "I'm going to try to get my shot off quicker, but I'm really going to try to focus on going off the dribble. If guys want to try me hard off screens, have a one-dribble or two-dribble pull-up, or even get into the body of the big and get easy points off the free-throw line."

D'Antoni agrees Loop can become better at taking the ball to the rim, using his long-range accuracy to help him.

"Getting it and finishing around the rim would make him a more all-around player," D'Antoni said. "He's got to play almost like Kyle Korver in the NBA. Kyle comes out and shoots 3s, but now Kyle can put it down on you if you're not careful. And that's because you have to honor his shot so hard."

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MARSHALL DID NOT get out of the Charlotte loss unscathed in terms of the injury list. Both junior guard Justin Edmonds and sophomore forward Ryan Taylor were hobbled during the game. Edmonds went down in the first half and left for the locker room. He returned, according to the radio broadcast, with an ice pack on his knee and did not enter the game again.

Taylor went down in the second half holding his left leg and tried to play again. He lasted about five minutes before he returned to the bench for good. During his postgame comments on the radio broadcast, D'Antoni said Taylor should be ready for Wednesday's game against WKU, but he was "a little bit worried" about Edmonds.

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THE HERD WOMEN'S basketball team opens its C-USA basketball tournament as the No. 9 seed against eighth-seeded Charlotte at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Birmingham. Marshall closed its regular season with a home loss to the 49ers, 66-58, on Saturday. As with the men, the Charlotte women swept the season series with the Herd, winning 74-56 on Jan. 10 in Charlotte.

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 drop regular-season finale at Charlotte http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150307/DM03/150309258 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150307/DM03/150309258 Sat, 7 Mar 2015 22:34:55 -0400

from staff reports

The Marshall men's basketball team's struggles on the road followed the Thundering Herd all the way to the end of the regular season. The Herd's early 12-point lead at Charlotte vanished by halftime, and Marshall lost its fifth straight road game and 13th of 14 games away from the Cam Henderson Center, 86-73, to the 49ers.

"Somehow, we have to find a way to bring our game from home to here," Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni said. "We'll keep working on it and see what happens."

Austin Loop scored 19 points and Ryan Taylor recorded his 14th double-double of the year with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

The Herd (11-20, 7-11 Conference USA) fell to the 12th seed in the C-USA tournament with the loss. Both Marshall and Charlotte finished the conference schedule at 7-11 and the 49ers swept the Herd in the season series, winning the first game in Huntington, 77-72, on Jan. 10.

Marshall will open the tournament at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Birmingham, Ala., against fifth-seeded Western Kentucky. The Herd lost to WKU in Bowling Green, Ky., and beat the Hilltoppers in Huntington.

It looked early on that Marshall might finally be able to overcome those road woes, jumping out to a 20-8 lead over the 49ers (14-17, 7-11 C-USA) less than seven minutes into the game, thanks to a trio of 3-pointers from Loop.

But Charlotte went on a 19-5 run to take a 27-25 lead with 6:01 left in the first half and extended that lead to 37-32 at halftime. In the first minute of the second half, the 49ers scored a quick four points and led by as many as 15.

Pierria Henry, a South Charleston High graduate and star for the 49ers, scored 19 points with eight rebounds, four assists and two steals in his final home game.

The Herd was hurt by both foul trouble and injuries. Justin Edmonds went down in the first half and went to the locker room. According to the radio broadcast, he returned to the bench with an ice pack on his knee and did not play again. Taylor injured his left leg in the second half, returned to the game, but lasted about five minutes before returning to the bench.

D'Antoni said during the postgame radio broadcast that Taylor should be fine by Wednesday's tournament opener, but he was "a little bit worried" about Edmonds' injury.

The Herd enters the conference tournament a loser of four of its last six games and still with the monkey of its road record on its back, but D'Antoni said the team is undeterred as it prepares for Wednesday.

"We just have to keep working at it and see if we can't get down to this tournament and make some noise," D'Antoni said. "We're going to work hard until Wednesday. Hopefully we'll come down to Birmingham, have a good time and see if we can't pull a win or two and take home a trophy with us."

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Herd men drop road contest at Old Dominion http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150305/DM03/150309405 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150305/DM03/150309405 Thu, 5 Mar 2015 22:56:23 -0400

From staff reports

The Marshall men's basketball team dropped another road game, this time 67-50 at Old Dominion, but Thundering Herd coach Dan D'Antoni didn't feel too disappointed after the contest.

"We've gotten a lot better," D'Antoni said. "I'm not down at all. This is a tough game to come in here and win and we made it very competitive."

The Herd (10-19, 7-10 Conference USA) trailed just 33-29 at halftime, buoyed by a 5-for-10 effort from the 3-point line. That accuracy disappeared in the second half, as Marshall made just 1 of its next 10.

Austin Loop led Marshall with 13 points, but ODU's Trey Freeman scored 21 and Richard Ross added 14 points and 10 rebounds to remain undefeated at home. Marshall, on the other hand, has lost 13 of 14 away from the Cam Henderson Center.

The Monarchs (23-6, 12-5 C-USA) led by no more than five points in the first half, and the Herd actually led late in the period. A Loop 3 with 2:33 left in the half gave Marshall a 27-24 advantage. But Old Dominion went on a 9-2 run to end the half and outscored Marshall 13-4 in the first 1:20 of the second half to pull away.

"This is a good team," D'Antoni said of the Monarchs. "They're very well-coached, very aggressive and senior-laden. But we competed. This was a competitive game. It wasn't like the score indicated."

The loss put the Herd in a three-way tie for ninth place in the conference standings - with Florida International and the University of Texas at San Antonio - with one regular-season game to go. Marshall concludes the regular-season schedule at 7 p.m. Saturday at Charlotte, which beat the Herd, 77-72, in Huntington on Jan. 10.

It didn't help Marshall that leading scorer Ryan Taylor was saddled with foul trouble in the second half and finished with just four points on 2-of-10 shooting. J.P. Kambola scored 11 points, but just two in the second half.

Ball control was an issue again with the Herd, which committed 22 turnovers. ODU also controlled the boards, outrebounding Marshall 36-28. The Herd shot 19 of 48 from the floor (39.6 percent), while the Monarchs shot 28 of 58 (48.3 percent).

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Marshall men hit the road to close regular season http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150304/DM03/150309531 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150304/DM03/150309531 Wed, 4 Mar 2015 21:46:17 -0400 By Derek Redd CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The Marshall men's basketball team's revenge tour - its quest to even the score with the teams that defeated it earlier this season - concludes this week, the final week of Conference USA's regular season.

The Thundering Herd has succeeded so far in that campaign, notching victories over Western Kentucky, Florida International and Florida Atlantic after those three squads bested Marshall in previous contests. But the degree of difficulty increases in the final two games of that tour, versus Old Dominion at 8 p.m. Thursday (broadcast on GetTV) and Charlotte at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Those two games send Marshall (11-18, 7-9 C-USA) on the road, where the Herd has won just once this season. The previous three rematches took place at the Cam Henderson Center.

The Henderson Center also was the site of Marshall's losses to the Monarchs and 49ers. ODU beat the Herd, 72-51, on Jan. 8, and Charlotte won, 77-72, on Jan. 10. Yet, MU sophomore guard Austin Loop said, things have changed for the team since those two setbacks.

"We're a completely different team," he said. "Our chemistry has gone through the roof compared to what it was in the beginning of the season."

It's been a change in both chemistry and strategy. For instance, when Marshall faced ODU and Charlotte the first time, forward J.P. Kambola played in neither game, part of a four-game stretch where he played just three minutes total. Now he's started the Herd's last 10 games, playing no fewer than 15 minutes in any of them and scoring in double figures six times.

Those two losses came in the middle of a stretch where Marshall had lost 15 of 16 games. The Herd enters Thursday's game as winner of seven of its last 10. Head coach Dan D'Antoni said that, among all the things that have changed with his team in the last 10 games, its confidence is among the most significant.

"We were walking through our stuff and trying to adjust our defense," he said, "and Justin Edmonds stepped up and said, 'Coach, we're a lot better at this stuff right now. We've got this.' I think that tells you how they feel.

"They know they've gotten better," he added. "They know what they're supposed to do and where they're supposed to be. I thought that was really good, so I said, 'OK, y'all got it, let's play.'"

Old Dominion (22-6, 11-5 C-USA) no longer is the nationally ranked conference favorite that thumped the Herd in January, though the Monarchs haven't fallen far. ODU lost that national ranking after one week, when it lost at Western Kentucky the Saturday after beating Marshall. The Monarchs can't catch Louisiana Tech or the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the race for the regular season crown, but they can break a three-way tie for the tournament's third seed with a successful weekend.

The Monarchs dominated inside during its win over Marshall, outrebounding the Herd, 36-26, and outscoring Marshall 30-6 in the paint. Loop said one of ODU's most dangerous attributes is its ability to improvise. The Monarchs are so cohesive that they have no problem breaking out of a set strategy to attack.

"They read each other so well, kind of like an organized pick-up game," Loop said. "They have their sets, but at any time, you can't make a read and expect them to do something. You can scout them, but at the end of the day, you just have to come play."

The Herd finds itself in a conference middle ground. It's nowhere near contention for a top-four seed in the C-USA tournament, but it's not playing in fear of missing it altogether. Marshall's ticket to next week's tournament in Birmingham, Ala., is safe. Wins and losses will effect seeding. Teams No. 6 through 12 are separated by a total of two games.

D'Antoni is confident heading into Marshall's final two regular-season games, but he isn't worried about any momentum built or lost. Momentum, he said, is something to write about in the newspapers. He just wants the final weekend to prepare the Herd for the tournament, no matter the outcome.

"This is mostly about making us better, and trying to get everything down, win or lose," he said, "for us to come out of that last game of that little trip ready to go down and play the Conference USA (tournament). That could be from two losses or two wins, depending on how they react to what we're doing."

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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