www.charlestondailymail.com Marshall Sports http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2015, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Marshall beats FIU to clinch C-USA tourney berth (video) http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150226/DM03/150229329 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150226/DM03/150229329 Thu, 26 Feb 2015 23:19:09 -0500 By Derek Redd

(On our app? See D'Antoni video here)

HUNTINGTON - It's official. The Marshall men's basketball team is Birmingham bound.

The Thundering Herd clinched a berth in the Conference USA tournament in Birmingham, Ala., with a 87-69 win over Florida International on Thursday night at the Cam Henderson Center.

The Herd went into its last four regular-season games needing one win or one loss by Florida Atlantic to earn a spot in the tournament held March 11-14. Marshall got some help from Western Kentucky, who came back to beat Florida Atlantic and knock the Owls out of tournament contention, but the Herd didn't need it.

All it needed was 11 3-pointers, which helped Marshall (10-18, 6-9 C-USA) build as much as a 28-point lead over the Panthers.

"It feels really good," Marshall sophomore Ryan Taylor said of clinching, "but we've still got more work to do. Just going there isn't satisfying. We want to go there and win."

Austin Loop led all scorers with 20 points, his third game this season with at least 20, and Justin Edmonds added 19 points to send Marshall to its fifth straight win at home and sixth win in the last nine games.

The Herd will host the Owls at 7 p.m. Saturday to see if it can go 2-for-2 on revenge games this weekend. Marshall watched an 18-point lead disappear in an overtime loss in Miami in January, and lost an 11-point lead to FAU in the next game in Boca Raton.

The Panthers' largest lead Thursday was just three points in the first minute of the game. Their last lead came with 11:48 left in the first half when Tashawn Desir's layup put FIU (13-15, 6-9 C-USA) up 13-12. The game was Marshall's for good after a 17-5 run in the last 4:54 in the first half turned Marshall's four-point lead into a 16-point lead.

Ray Rodriguez's 3-pointer at the 4:54 mark made the score 27-23 in the Herd's favor. Marshall responded with a barrage of 3s of its own. The Herd hit five straight in that span - two from Taylor, two from Loop and one from Edmonds. Its only miss from beyond the arc in that 4:54 came when Jay Johnson's attempt as time ran out missed the mark.

"Early on, I was kind of questioning whether I would get some good looks," said Loop, who made 3 of 7 from 3-point range. "They were switching back between zone and man and I was getting good looks with both. Then (Taylor) knocks down a couple and Justin knocks down one, and I don't know how you guard that."

Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni said that despite his team's tendency to shoot from outside - only Rice had shot and made more 3-pointers entering Thursday - FIU didn't seem to put any special emphasis on stopping it.

"They didn't really try to take them away from us," he said. "Some teams, Western (Kentucky) and (UTEP), they try to take the 3s away and really stay out. This team was willing to play kind of a normal style of defense, and we were able to penetrate up with the pick and roll.

"The pick and roll creates it," he added. "You run the guy down and they have to come over to help on the roll guy. When you do, you kick it out and its there. And you just load it up and let it go."

Marshall made 11 of 27 3-pointers (40.7 percent) and shot 26 of 52 overall (50 percent).

The Panthers' top two players, guard Dennis Mavin and center Adrian Diaz, had uneven nights. Mavin, the conference's No. 2 scorer at 17.5 points per game, scored only 12 against the Herd. Diaz led FIU with 19 points, but all of them came in the second half when the game no longer was competitive. He went 0 for 2 in the first half with two rebounds, four turnovers and a technical foul. The conference leader in blocks at 2.9 per game, Diaz recorded just one against Marshall.

Taylor scored 13 points, pulled down a team-high six rebounds and added four assists. Aleksa Nikolic dished out six assists and scored 10 points. Cheikh Sane came of the bench to score 10 points and help neutralize Diaz.

The Herd's win pulled the team into a tie for 10th with FIU in the conference standings. Now all Marshall has to worry about is where it will end up in the conference tournament seeding. D'Antoni said it was good to get the mystery out of the way early, but he isn't worried about the C-USA tournament with three games left in the regular season.

"It's great for the kids and the fans," he said, "but I'm one of those guys where I think I have Alzheimer's because I can't remember what happened yesterday and I'm not smart enough to predict what's going to happen tomorrow. I live right in the moment. We just try to do the best we can."

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 running back Byrd leaves team http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150226/DM03/150229367 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150226/DM03/150229367 Thu, 26 Feb 2015 19:09:04 -0500 HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall University confirmed Thursday that freshman running back Brandon Byrd has left the team. Byrd, from East Bay High School in Gibsonton, Fla., carried the ball 23 times for 94 yards and touchdown in 2014. He also recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown in the Thundering Herd's win over Old Dominion. Byrd sat out the 2013 season as an academic non-qualfier.

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Marshall men hope for better results against FIU, FAU http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150225/DM03/150229475 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150225/DM03/150229475 Wed, 25 Feb 2015 21:08:05 -0500 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - If recent history is any indication, Marshall's men's basketball team does quite well with rematches.

The Thundering Herd avenged a 19-point January loss at Western Kentucky with a five-point win over the Hilltoppers on Valentine's Day, Marshall's fifth win in a six-game stretch. The Herd gets a pair of rematches this week - at 8 p.m. Thursday versus Florida International and at 7 p.m. Saturday versus Florida Atlantic - at the Henderson Center.

The game will be broadcast on GetTV, available as over-the-air channel 8.2. It can be found on most Suddenlink cable systems on channel 131 and Comcast cable systems on channel 135. Satellite TV subscribers will need GetTV's over-the-air signal to watch the game. Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni and the Herd players all mentioned the advantages of facing a team the second time around, being familiar with tendencies and getting a first-hand look at talent. Yet D'Antoni said the key to beating Western Kentucky in the rematch might have had more to do with location than anything else.

"It was their place and then it was our place," D'Antoni said. "(With FIU and FAU) it was their place and now it's at our place. I don't know if it's as much as what we've prepared for, what we've seen or what we've done as much as it is their place, our place."

The Herd (9-18, 5-9 Conference USA) could use weekend at home following a pair of disappointing away results. After winning those five of six, Marshall was blown out by 39 at Middle Tennessee and by 18 at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The difference between Marshall at home and on the road is significant. The Herd shoots seven percent better from the floor at the Henderson Center and three percent better from 3-point range, and averages more than 11 points more at home. Marshall has won just one of 12 games away from the Henderson Center.

"I think with a young team like we have, when we get on the road, it's hard for any team to win in the road," D'Antoni said. "When you're young like this, you're not really good. So that's why we need to have our fans, our band and our students."

Marshall needs just one win over its next four games, or an FAU loss in its next four, to clinch a berth in the Conference USA tournament starting March 11 in Birmingham, Ala. The Owls are 1-13 in conference play and the only way they could jump the Herd is for Marshall to lose its four and FAU to win its four.

The Herd would like to end the mystery Thursday against the Panthers (13-14, 6-8 C-USA), which went 4-6 in the 10 games since they erased an 18-point deficit and swiped an overtime victory from the Herd in Miami. Marshall made just 10 of 41 shots from the floor in the second half and overtime in that loss. It was the first of two Sunshine State setbacks where the Herd gave up double-digit leads, as MU led by 11 at FAU before losing by 18.

"I think we got too relaxed with the score," junior guard Justin Edmonds said of that FIU loss. "We lost focus in our assignments and weren't paying attention to detail, boxing out and things like that. Once they got on their run, I thought their crowd gave them energy. And once they got that energy, they didn't look back."

Dennis Mavin, who dropped 19 points on the Herd in their first game, still leads the Panthers in scoring and is second in Conference USA with 17.5 points per game. Marshall's outside shooting will be crucial once again with Adrian Diaz in the post. The 6-foot-10 senior, who pulled down eight rebounds and blocked four shots in the first MU-FIU clash, leads C-USA in blocked shots (2.85 per game) and field goal percentage (62.7) and is seventh in rebounding (6.8 per game).

Marshall's players are still kicking themselves over a pair of games that slipped through their fingers. The frustration lingered well past the final buzzer, and Edmonds said those memories will be motivation this weekend.

"It sits in our stomachs," Edmonds said. "You could tell by the looks on the faces in the locker room and the ride back. We weren't happy with ourselves. We feel like we owe them."

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 Marshall president and businessman Mike Perry dies http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150225/DM01/150229540 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150225/DM01/150229540 Wed, 25 Feb 2015 14:50:59 -0500 By Samuel Speciale Former Marshall University President Mike Perry died Wednesday morning after battling cancer for nearly two years. He was 78.

Perry led the university from 1999 to 2000 in an interim capacity, but was so highly regarded that school officials voted last month to remove the "interim" tag next to his name on the list of Marshall presidents.

The former lawyer, banker and community leader was remembered Wednesday by education officials, state and federal lawmakers and local business organizations.

U.S. Senators Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., noted Perry's leadership and impact at Marshall and across West Virginia.

Manchin said he was sorry to hear about the death of Perry, who he called a "good friend and wonderful West Virginian."

"Our hearts go out to Henriella and the entire Perry Family," he said in a social media post.

Perry is survived by his wife, whom he married in 1958, his three children and eight grandchildren.

A Huntington native, Perry graduated from Huntington High School in 1954 and Marshall University four years later. He then went on to attend West Virginia University and received a law degree in 1961.

After school, Perry spent 20 years working as a lawyer with the former Huddleston-Bolen firm, which has since merged with Dinsmore and Shohl LLP. He then went on to work an additional 20 years as a banker, eventually becoming the president and CEO of JP Morgan Chase Banks of West Virginia. He also held leadership positions with Champion Industries, Logan Corporation, the Mingo Wyoming Coal Land Company and Arch Coal. He retired in 2001.

During his career, Perry received many accolades and was one of only two people to be named charter members of both Marshall and West Virginia University's business halls of fame.

Perry was noted for his positive effect in the business sector and his willingness to give back to the community.

While at the helm of Marshall, Perry donated his entire salary to the school's general scholarship fund. He also was instrumental in establishing the Heritage Farm Museum in Huntington.

In addition to serving terms on Marshall's Board of Trustees, Perry also was involved in several other community organizations. He was a former chairman of the Huntington Museum of Art and the Huntington and West Virginia chambers of commerce. He also was president of the Rotary Club of Huntington.

Perry's funeral service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at New Baptist Church in Huntington. Visitation, also at New Baptist Church, will be Friday from 2 to 5 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.

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Taylor's passing plays a bigger role for Marshall men this season http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150224/DM03/150229584 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150224/DM03/150229584 Tue, 24 Feb 2015 23:09:33 -0500 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Ryan Taylor's ability to score is obvious, considering he leads the Marshall men's basketball team and is 12th in Conference USA in that category. It's also no secret he's a top rebounder. He also leads the Thundering Herd and is second in C-USA there.

It's another less-heralded talent - his passing - that has helped the sophomore forward grow as a player and become even more vital to the Herd as its enters the regular-season home stretch at 8 p.m. Thursday versus Florida International at the Cam Henderson Center.

The game will be broadcast on GetTV, available as over-the-air channel 8.2. It can be found on most Suddenlink cable systems on channel 131 and Comcast cable systems on channel 135. Satellite TV subscribers will need GetTV's over-the-air signal to watch the game.

Taylor's passing skills haven't received as much attention partially because, last season, they really weren't on display. He recorded just 30 assists over 31 games as a freshman. That's changed under first-year coach Dan D'Antoni.

Through 27 games, Taylor already has 78 assists. That 2.89-assists-per-game average is 13th in the conference. Herd freshman point guard Aleksa Nikolic is tied for sixth in C-USA at 3.74 assists per game. Taylor is the only player in Conference USA in the top 13 in points, rebounds and assists.

"It's been just ball-handling," Taylor said. "And just reading the defense and reading the next play ahead when I have the ball. If they take this away, I know my next option right then and there."

Taylor knew his role would change this summer. D'Antoni told him so. His offense employs a "point forward," a bigger player who handles plenty of ball distribution. When D'Antoni was a Phoenix Suns assistant for his younger brother, Mike D'Antoni, that job went to Boris Diaw. The 6-foot-8 French forward averaged 6.2 assists on top of his 13.3 points and 6.9 rebounds during the 2005-06 season.

D'Antoni felt the 6-5 Taylor could play the same role and help out Nikolic as he navigates his first year of college competition.

"It takes half the burden off (Nikolic)," D'Antoni said, "so he's got to do that. And our system is like that. It needs a point forward. It needs a Boris Diaw. It needs a (Golden State Warriors forward) David Lee, those types of forwards that can play and distribute. Ryan's good at it."

Taylor thought that, even though he wasn't passing as much as a freshman, he could thrive in that job given the chance.

"I knew coming in the type of basketball player I could be, passing the ball and being a distributor," he said. "I felt really good about my passes."

And the Herd has been feeling even better about them in recent games, as Taylor has started to cut down on his turnovers. In his first nine games of the season, Taylor had three or more turnovers seven times, with a high of seven against West Virginia University. In his last eight games, he's reached three turnovers only twice. Against Rice, he dished out seven assists against just two turnovers.

Taylor credits the improvement to greater comfort and more experience in D'Antoni's system, plus the guidance of D'Antoni and assistant coach Chris Duhon, both of whom were top level college point guards, D'Antoni at Marshall and Duhon at Duke. Taylor said the film work and practice tips have been essential in his growth.

D'Antoni said that, for Taylor to grow even further as a passer, something else is essential.

"He's got to stay on the floor," D'Antoni said.

Foul trouble, which plagued Taylor plenty as a freshman, has cropped up again in recent games. He played just five minutes in the first half in Marshall's loss at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, already saddled with three fouls.

Taylor said those problems, though, are correctable. And they have to be, considering how important his on-court contributions are.

"I've been slipping into bad habits, quick reaches thinking the refs aren't going to see it," Taylor said. "And then just how the game goes, it's kind of like a domino effect. I pick up my first one, and then I get my second and third after that.

"I know I can change it," he added, "those kinds of lazy fouls. I know I can change it and get out of those habits."

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: Road has been bumpy for Herd http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150223/DM03/150229710 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150223/DM03/150229710 Mon, 23 Feb 2015 18:21:26 -0500 Home court isn't just an advantage for the Marshall men's basketball team. It's nearly a necessity.

Thundering Herd coach Dan D'Antoni has said more than once that, in his mind, home-court advantage is strongest in basketball above all sports. Attendance at the Henderson Center has jumped in recent games past 5,000 to a vocal 6,000 or more. But even when crowds were more sparse, the Henderson Center court was a much more prosperous section of hardwood for the Herd.

Of Marshall's nine wins this season, eight have come at home. D'Antoni has also said that teams have the ability to take some of that home-crowd energy and use it to fuel them when they set out for foreign territory. Yet that hasn't happened for Marshall much this season.

The Herd is 1-11 away from home - 1-10 in true road games, plus a neutral-court loss to West Virginia at the Charleston Civic Center. That lone win came in Hattiesburg, Miss., against Southern Mississippi. The Golden Eagles sit at 7-19 overall and 2-13 in Conference USA and are playing for pride, since they're sitting out the 2015 postseason as it deals with an NCAA investigation.

The numbers show just how rough the road has been for Marshall this year.

n The Herd shoots nearly seven percent worse on the road (35.6 percent), than at home (42.4 percent).

n That trend extends to the 3-point line, where Marshall shoots 29.4 percent away from the Henderson Center and 33.2 percent inside it.

n Those struggles are a big reason why the Herd averages more than 11 fewer points on the road. Marshall scores 71.8 per game in Huntington and 60.5 per game elsewhere.

n Marshall's last three road games - blowout losses at Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee and UAB - were especially difficult. The Herd shot no better than 33.3 percent overall and 30 percent from 3-point range. It also failed to crack 60 points, scoring no more than 57 in any of the three.

n Ball security isn't much better. At home, Marshall averages slightly more assists (15.4 per game) than turnovers (14.3). The numbers flip-flop in a big way on the road, where the Herd averages 10.3 assists and 16.7 turnovers a game.

That all makes this week, Marshall's final pair of regular-season home games, even more crucial. The Herd hosts Florida International on Thursday and Florida Atlantic on Saturday. As of now, FAU is the only postseason-eligible team sitting below Marshall for the final spot in the C-USA tournament. Yet the Owls remain in striking distance.

Marshall sits at 5-9 in conference and FAU is at 1-13, each with four games left to play. If Marshall drops all four and FAU wins all four, the Owls would grab that final playoff spot thanks to a pair of wins over the Herd. Now, FAU hasn't won a game since beating Marshall on Jan. 17, so it would be a long shot, but it's a shot nonetheless.

A win in either game this week would lock Marshall into the conference tournament. Such a victory is imperative, considering the Herd concludes the regular season at Old Dominion - which beat Marshall by 22 in Huntington - and Charlotte - which trailed Marshall just once in a five-point win at the Henderson Center.

The Herd held double-digit leads over both FIU and FAU on their respective home courts before stumbling down the stretch, so it would stand to reason that the Henderson Center confines could give Marshall enough of a jolt to hold the lead should it take one.

Marshall could use the comfort of knowing as early as possible that its C-USA tournament ticket is punched, because if the Herd earns a trip to Birmingham, Ala., for that tournament, it must face its road woes all over again.

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Marshall suffers more cold shooting in loss to UAB http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150221/DM03/150229810 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150221/DM03/150229810 Sat, 21 Feb 2015 22:33:12 -0500

from staff reports

Another cold shooting night led to another disappointing road result for the Marshall men's basketball team.

The Thundering Herd dropped its second straight game Saturday night, a 72-54 setback at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, by shooting just 17 of 59 from the floor (28.8 percent) and 4 of 25 from 3-point range (16 percent). Marshall (9-18, 5-9 Conference USA) has won just one of 12 games away from the Cam Henderson Center.

"We're back to where we can't score," Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni said on the postgame radio broadcast. "You can't shoot in the 28-percent area. It puts too much pressure on your defense. I thought, defensively, we were in great shape until we just couldn't score. Then they broke it open a little bit in the second half."

All 11 Marshall players scored Saturday, but only one - Justin Edmonds with 11 points - scored in double figures. Foul trouble again plagued leading scorer Ryan Taylor, who fouled out with 3:43 left in the game and recorded just nine points and seven rebounds.

The boards once again were a problem for the Herd, as UAB (15-13, 11-4 C-USA) outrebounded Marshall, 48-38.

The Herd began the game making 3 of its first 5 shots and held an early 7-0 lead, as the Blazers missed their first seven shots from the floor. Marshall went cold after that, making 7 of 28 from the floor after that first flurry. UAB led by as many as 11 in the first half before heading into halftime up 31-22.

As poorly as UAB shot in the first half - 32.4 percent on 11-of-34 shooting - Marshall was worse. At 10 for 33, the Herd ended the half shooting just 30.3 percent. The Herd had a pair of key players in first-half foul trouble. Ryan Taylor played just five first-half minutes after picking up three fouls, and Jay Johnson was saddled with three fouls as well.

"When (Taylor) is not in there, we don't have that distributor," D'Antoni said. "And we need that extra distributor in there with (point guard Aleksa Nikolic). He can't carry a team yet as a freshman. He's just not there."

Nikolic recorded two assists against five turnovers and scored just two points on 1 of 8 shooting.

Austin Loop scored seven points for Marshall, but made just 1 of 7 from the floor and 1 of 6 from 3-point range. UAB got a pair of double-doubles from William Lee (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Chris Coakley (11 points, 13 rebounds).

Marshall heads back to the Cam Henderson Center this week and will host Florida International at 8 p.m. Thursday (GetTV).

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MTSU dominates Marshall men in win http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150219/DM03/150219157 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150219/DM03/150219157 Thu, 19 Feb 2015 22:00:17 -0500

from staff reports

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The road remains an enigma to the Marshall men's basketball team.

The Thundering Herd's three-game winning streak ended as its shooting touch was nowhere to be found at Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders blitzed the Herd for a 90-51 win Thursday afternoon at the Murphy Center, Marshall's 10th loss in 11 games away from the Cam Henderson Center.

Middle Tennessee freshman Giddy Potts scorched Marshall for 28 points, making 8 of 11 from 3-point range. J.P. Kambola led Marshall with 12 points, all scored in the first half.

Marshall (9-17, 5-9 Conference USA) cut an eight-point MT halftime lead to four early in the second half, but the Blue Raiders (14-13, 7-7 C-USA) decked the Herd with a 16-0 run, then led by as many as 47, the largest deficit Marshall had faced all season.

"It really started in the first half," Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni said. "We were only eight points down and had them under 40 percent shooting, but we didn't have the energy. And the only reason they were eight points ahead is because we didn't match their energy. We weren't executing what we do offensively."

The Blue Raiders, whose 61.9 points per game entering Thursday was second-worst in the conference, tattooed Marshall for 56 second-half points. As a team, MT made 14 of 32 3-pointers for the game, while Marshall made just 6 of 20.

After Middle Tennessee jumped to a quick 5-0 lead and stayed ahead for the game's first 7:14, an Austin Loop 3-pointer allowed the Herd to pull ahead 13-12. That was the only lead Marshall would enjoy in the first half. Jacquez Rozier's jumper 19 seconds later put the Blue Raiders back in front and MT led by as many as 12 before heading into halftime up 34-26.

As hot as the Herd had been shooting in its last six games, 44.9 percent from the floor, that accuracy didn't follow the team to Murfreesboro. Marshall made just 8 of 23 from the floor in the game's first 20 minutes and 18 of 54 for the game. Kambola scored nearly half of Marshall's first-half points, ending the period with 12.

As the game got away from Marshall, Middle Tennessee asserted its dominance on the boards. The Blue Raiders outrebounded the Herd 46-27, including 12 offensive rebounds to Marshall's five.

"I thought when things went bad, you could see them drooping," D'Antoni said. "Those were things we did early in the year, and we don't want that to come back. They've got to keep their shoulders up, face whatever's in front of them and play as hard as they can."

Ryan Taylor was Marshall's only other double-digit scorer with 10 points, but he saw his streak of seven games with a double-double come to an end with just five rebounds. No other Herd players scored more than six. Perrin Buford scored 13 for Middle Tennessee, while Darnell Harris scored 12.

The Herd entered Thursday's game a winner of five of its last six. The contest tipped off three hours earlier than originally scheduled due to inclement weather in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Marshall visits the University of Alabama at Birmingham at 8 p.m. Saturday.

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(No heading) http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150218/DM03/150219227 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150218/DM03/150219227 Wed, 18 Feb 2015 21:36:16 -0500 Pair of Marshall DBs leave team

Marshall University confirmed Wednesday that two defenisve backs, corner Donaldven Manning and safety LaDerrick Hammond, have left the team.

Manning, a Miami Central High graduate, transferred to Marshall in 2013 after playing eight games at Virginia Tech as a true freshman in 2012. After sitting a season, he played in three games in 2014 and recorded two tackles. Hammond, part of Marshall's 2014 recruiting class, redshirted this past season. He was rated a two-star prospect by Rivals.

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MU women's game moved back two hours http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150218/DM03/150219229 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150218/DM03/150219229 Wed, 18 Feb 2015 21:36:07 -0500

FROM STAFF REPORTS

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Because of the inclement weather, Thursday's Marshall University women's home basketball game against Middle Tennessee State will tip off at 1 p.m. The game was originally scheduled for 11 a.m.

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MU women's game moved back two hours http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150218/DM03/150219231 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150218/DM03/150219231 Wed, 18 Feb 2015 21:36:01 -0500

FROM STAFF REPORTS

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Because of the inclement weather, Thursday's Marshall University women's home basketball game against Middle Tennessee State will tip off at 1 p.m. The game was originally scheduled for 11 a.m.

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Marshall tries to turn around road woes http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150218/DM03/150219243 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150218/DM03/150219243 Wed, 18 Feb 2015 20:27:52 -0500 By Derek Redd CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Marshall's men's basketball team has put itself on the right path in a number of areas over the last few games. Shooting is up. Turnovers are down. Thus, the Thundering Herd has won five of its last six games, including upsets over Western Kentucky and UTEP. Now the Herd will try to bounce back in another part of its game - playing away from the Henderson Center.

Marshall takes the road for a pair of games starting Thursday at 5 p.m. at Middle Tennessee. That game time was moved up from its original 8 p.m. tip-off due to worsening weather conditions in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Then, Saturday at 8 p.m., Marshall visits UAB. The Herd (9-16, 5-7 C-USA) enters the trip just 1-9 outside the Henderson Center confines.

That lone win came during Marshall's recent hot streak, a 69-54 victory at Southern Mississippi, a team that had declared two players ineligible just hours before the Herd and Golden Eagles played. In the two road games previous to that win, Marshall blew double-digit leads in losses at Florida International and Florida Atlantic. In the road game directly following Southern Miss, Marshall lost at Louisiana Tech by 24.

Still, Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni saw some promise during that trip through the deep South. As tough as the season has been for Southern Miss, Marshall had won just once in Hattiesburg prior to this year. And Marshall led Louisiana Tech by 13 early before turnovers led to its downfall.

"Even though (Louisiana Tech) beat us pretty good, I feel we could control that destiny if we could play at the level of play we're capable of," D'Antoni said.

Marshall has showed in the past six games that it's capable of playing some pretty good basketball. Over that stretch, the Herd has shot 44.9 percent from the floor and 36.8 from 3-point range, after shooting 38.6 percent from the floor and 30.4 percent from 3 over the 19 previous games. Four of those five wins have come in a friendly environment, but sophomore guard Austin Loop said the team needed the home-crowd jolt.

"I think where you start to win is at home," Loop said. "The crowd's behind you and everything. You practice there every day."

D'Antoni has said that home-court advantage is most prevalent in basketball and, conversely, winning on the road in basketball is tougher than any other sport. That Marshall has done so well recently at home, he said, should only help on another team's court.

"That gives you an energy that you can carry on the road, too," D'Antoni said. "I'm sure that'll help us as we go on the road. Once you reach a certain level, at least you've experienced it, and now you take a little bit on the road with you."

Marshall might not know what to expect from the Blue Raiders, mainly because the Blue Raiders often don't know what to expect from themselves. At 13-13 on the year, MT went 7-6 in its first 13 games and 6-7 in its next 13. It had a string of five wins in seven games, including a win over Old Dominion, then followed that with a string of five losses in seven games, including setbacks to North Texas and Rice.

The Blue Raiders have the second-best scoring defense (62.1 points allowed per game) and the second-worst scoring offense (61.9 points per game). Sophomore forward Reggie Upshaw is MT's only double-digit scorer at 10.3 points per game. No other player averages more than 7.7 points.

As hot and cold as Middle Tennessee can be, D'Antoni said his Herd's primary focus is getting better at its own system. That way, whether its at home, on the road, against a surging team or a struggling one, the team shouldn't suffer any lapses.

"In all your drills and everything that you do, your scrimmages and your practices, you try to get them to perform at their highest level," he said. "Once you start doing that, your focus will be on how you're playing and not where you're playing. Once that happens, you're pretty good to go."

At one point, Marshall was playing to make the Conference USA tournament in March. Now the Herd can actually think about bracket seeding. Loop said a pair of road wins should help Marshall climb that ladder.

"If we can get two wins and keep this streak going, we can carry them into coming back home and we could really finish out conference play really solid," Loop said. "I think if we can keep playing like we have been, and stay solid and keep working hard, I think we'll be fine."

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 heads stayed high during poor run http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150216/DM03/150219414 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150216/DM03/150219414 Mon, 16 Feb 2015 20:11:36 -0500 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall's men's basketball team began this season without this cast of players - a 21-point-per-game scorer, an all-conference third-team point guard, a five-star junior college prospect and the only MU player to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor in 2013-14.

Those four - Elijah Pittman, Kareem Canty, Chris Thomas and TyQuane Goard, respectively - departed the Thundering Herd's roster via several methods including transfer, dismissal and exhaustion of eligibility. Those four alone accounted for more than 56 percent of the Herd's total points scored last season.

Yet the 2014-15 Herd, missing all those key parts, had more Conference USA wins by Valentine's Day than last year's team had in its entire regular season. Marshall's upset of Western Kentucky on Saturday put the Herd at 5-7 in the conference. Last season's Herd team went 4-12 in C-USA.

Those missing pieces didn't deter the players' spirits coming into the season, though a long losing skid that started early in the season tried its best.

"I think every team comes in, looking back and saying, 'We want to be better than last year's team,'" said sophomore Ryan Taylor, who recorded his seventh straight double-double and 12th of the season versus WKU. "That's how we went into this season, even though we hit that bad skid for a while."

That skid ended up stretching to 15 losses in 16 games, that one win coming against a Division II foe. A streak like that could leave anyone justifiably frazzled, but Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni decided he needed to take those losses in stride. He knew what he was getting into when he took the job. He was the one that dismissed both Thomas and Goard.

The team needed coached, he said, but it didn't need bellowed at.

"I could get over there and yell and scream, and it doesn't do any good," D'Antoni said. "I caught myself. I'm like everybody else. I get frustrated when it doesn't look like it's going like it's been planned in my mind.

"But I finally said, 'What am I doing?'" he continued. "I know what's going on. I'm asking these kids to do something before they're ready to do it. So I backed off a little bit and said, look, just work on what we're doing, stay on what we're doing, and these kids have responded to it."

That showing of faith helped the players weather that dismal stretch, Taylor said.

"We still kept our heads high," he said. "We still kept saying, all right, we're going to win a game. And when we win a game, we're going to win another one and they're just going to start running off like that."

Starting with an upset of the University of Texas at El Paso, Marshall has rattled off five wins in its last six games, including the last three straight. The Herd is shooting better, up more than 6 percent both overall and from 3-point range in the last six games. Faith has had something to do with that, too. D'Antoni isn't scrutinizing every shot the players take, trusting them to take the ones that best fit their skill sets.

D'Antoni, however, isn't crowing that he's figured it all out. He knows his team is young and mostly inexperienced. One of the two players on his roster that has started all 25 games, sophomore Austin Loop, played a grand total of 75 minutes last year. Only one of the players in the current rotation, Taylor, averaged more than 4.1 points per game for Marshall last season.

And Marshall still has to improve on an awful record away from the Cam Henderson Center. The Herd has won just one of 10 games its played on either opposing or neutral courts. So D'Antoni isn't about to jinx things by claiming all the problems have been solved.

"We could fall right back on it," he said. "If I said it, we'd fall on our face next week."

Still, the simple fact of five C-USA wins is something tangible the Herd can cling to as it tries to rebuild the program after posting 23 losses in the previous two seasons. Considering all that offseason roster turnover, it's a promising start.

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Marshall-Purdue football game moved to Sept. 6 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150216/DM03/150219443 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150216/DM03/150219443 Mon, 16 Feb 2015 15:41:01 -0500

FROM STAFF REPORTS

The Marshall football team's season opener versus Purdue at Joan C. Edwards Stadium has been moved to a 3 p.m. kickoff on Sunday, Sept. 6, the school announced Monday. Conference USA moved the game to accommodate a national television broadcast. Broadcast details will be announced at a later date.

The game, marking the first time a Big Ten team has visited Edwards Stadium, originally was to be played Saturday, Sept. 5. The Thundering Herd, coming off a 13-1 Conference USA championship season, will play four of its first six games at home.

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Shots start to fall for Marshall men during hot streak http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150215/DM03/150219470 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150215/DM03/150219470 Sun, 15 Feb 2015 22:05:52 -0500 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Sitting in the Henderson Center media room following the Marshall men's basketball team's 87-82 win over Western Kentucky, Hilltoppers head coach Ray Harper offered a succinct evaluation of how a Thundering Herd team his squad beat by 19 a little more than a month ago rallied to defeat WKU for its fifth victory in six games.

"They're making shots," he said.

The Herd made plenty more Saturday night against Western Kentucky than they did in their first clash in January. Marshall made just 19 of 57 from the floor and 5 of 23 from 3-point range in Bowling Green, Ky. Those numbers grew to 30 of 62 from the floor and 12 of 29 from beyond the arc at the Henderson Center.

Throughout the Herd's recent resurgence - its five Conference USA wins by Valentine's Day is one more regular-season conference win than the team posted all last season - its shooters have been sharper. And that comes from a combination of what the players are doing in practice and what coach Dan D'Antoni isn't doing while leading them.

In Marshall's last six-game stretch, it has shot 44.9 percent from the floor and 36.8 percent from 3-point range. That includes its clunker of a shooting night in its lone loss of those six, against Louisiana Tech, where the Herd (9-16, 5-7 C-USA) shot 32.7 percent from the floor and 23.5 percent from 3. Before Marshall's hot streak, the team had shot 38.6 percent from the floor and 30.4 percent from beyond the arc.

Once the Herd warmed up Saturday against the Hilltoppers and hit 9 of 18 first-half 3-pointers, it erased an early seven-point deficit and led by as many as nine before halftime. WKU came back and regained the lead in the second half, but Marshall finished the game making 7 of its last 10 shots - four dunks, a layup and a pair of 3-pointers.

Sophomore Austin Loop, who led Marshall on Saturday with 23 points, said everyone has gotten into the scoring act.

"If you've got me hitting and Justin (Edmonds) knocking down 3s, then you've got Ryan (Taylor) and J.P. (Kambola) can step out," he said. "That's what Coach wants. Everybody shoots. We work on it. We practice it, so when it comes game time, you have to respect us from shooting outside. And that opens up the offense so much."

Among the drills D'Antoni employs is one he calls the "300 drill." The entire team has nine minutes to make 300 baskets from various parts of the floor - layups, mid-range jumpers, 3-pointers and others. Every shot in the drill is a shot the players would take in a game.

D'Antoni said that, for three-fourths of the year so far, Marshall couldn't make 300 shots. Now it comes with ease. At Thursday's practice, the team got tripped up twice during the drill and still made 320 shots.

Another big part of Marshall's improved shooting comes from confidence, and D'Antoni said that confidence stems from him not looking over players' shoulders and admonishing them for every missed shot. He remembered one practice during his sophomore year at Marshall when, in the middle of a shooting slump, he still couldn't find the hoop. That didn't sit well for D'Antoni's coach, Ellis Johnson.

"Ellis came out to the middle of the floor with his high voice. 'Don't shoot the ball if you can't make it! Don't shoot the ball!'" D'Antoni said. "I heard him. He got right in my face, too."

Later in the practice, D'Antoni said he corralled a steal, drove in for a layup but, instead of going up to score, he dribbled the ball back out. That brought Johnson back out on the floor.

"He said, 'What are you doing?,'" D'Antoni said. "And I said, 'I'm not shooting the ball. Now do you want me to shoot or not shoot? You let me know.' From that moment on, he said, 'Just shoot it, just shoot it.'"

That helps someone like Loop, who hit 5 of 6 3-pointers in the first half and just 1 of 4 in the second half. But that second-half 3 was a dagger with 1:19 left in the game that put the Herd up 81-74.

Marshall's win Saturday was its third straight conference victory. The last time the Herd did that was the 2011-12 season, when it opened its C-USA slate with four straight wins. Marshall can match that Thursday when it visits Middle Tennessee at 8 p.m. Sophomore Ryan Taylor - who recorded his seventh straight double-double and 12th of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds versus WKU - said Marshall will enter that game brimming with confidence.

"It's sky high," Taylor said. "We don't want to be overconfident or cocky or anything like that, but I feel like we're playing really good basketball right now. I feel like we're sharing the ball and everybody's getting involved. There's a lot of energy on the team, and we're feeling good and playing good basketball."

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 upsets Western Kentucky for fifth win in last six (video) http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150214/DM03/150219523 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150214/DM03/150219523 Sat, 14 Feb 2015 21:34:09 -0500 By Derek Redd

(On our app? See D'Antoni video here)

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall men's basketball team that Western Kentucky drubbed by 19 points a little more than a month ago wasn't the one the Hilltoppers saw in the Thundering Herd's 87-82 upset Saturday evening.

Better shooting, better defense and better ball control led the Herd to its fifth win in its last six games. All five of those wins came in Conference USA play and Marshall (9-16, 5-7 C-USA) won only four conference games in the entire 2013-14 season.

"We just kept playing," said sophomore Ryan Taylor, whose 14 points and 11 rebounds marked his seventh straight double-double and 12th of the season. "No matter if it was a home game, away game, tough game, we just kept playing, practicing hard every day and competing every day."

That the Herd has worked on its shooting touch this season is obvious. Against WKU on Saturday, Marshall made 12 of 29 3-point attempts (41.4 percent), 30 of 62 from the floor (48.4 percent) and 15 of 20 from the free throw line (75 percent). Two of those free throw misses game with 1.7 seconds left, when junior Justin Edmonds missed a pair.

Compare that to Marshall's loss in Bowling Green, Ky., when the Herd shot 19 for 57 from the floor (33.3 percent) and 5 for 23 from 3-point range (21.7 percent). Only Marshall's free-throw shooting (19 for 25 for 76 percent) was marginally better.

That improved shooting paid off in Saturday's first half, when Marshall bombarded Western Kentucky for nine 3-pointers in 18 attempts. Austin Loop, who led Marshall with 23 points, had 15 by halftime and shot 5-for-6 from 3 in the first period. Edmonds was right behind him with 14 points, shooting 3-for-4 from 3. Marshall led by as many as nine in the first half and went into halftime ahead 47-43.

"Me getting looks like that and knocking down 3s is huge for us," Loop said, "not just the scoring aspect. In the second half, they started shading me a little more, and that kind of opens up the floor for everybody else.

"If they're trying to keep me from getting the ball, then we're getting looks and dunks in the middle," he added.

Those dunks came in bunches in the second half, especially from junior DeVince Boykins, who had a career-high 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting. The Herd started struggling from beyond the arc, making just 3 of 11 in the second. But Marshall players started finding open lanes to the basket. Senior Cheikh Sane twice found a cutting Boykins for powerful dunks.

The first, a one-hander with 10:35 left, gave Marshall a 65-61 lead. After Western Kentucky (16-8, 9-3 C-USA) took a 69-67 lead on a Chris Harrison-Docks 3-pointer with 8:03 left, Boykins jammed home a two-hander off a Sane pass to tie the game.

"With the offense being so spread, it opens up everything," Boykins said. "With Loop knocking down shots, Ryan, with him being a threat, it opens up everything. Wherever I am, I just look to attack."

Marshall never trailed again. A Loop 3 with 1:19 left gave Marshall an 81-74 lead the the Herd stretched the lead to as many as nine by breaking the press defense on the inbounds pass for layups and dunks.

WKU coach Ray Harper said the Hilltoppers' second loss in a row wasn't an effort problem, but at times was a focus problem on defense.

"We just fall asleep and were a step late on rotations," he said. "We just weren't alert enough off the ball. (Marshall) made plays."

Harrison Docks led Western Kentucky with 20 points, making 6 of 14 3-pointers. Western Kentucky's leading scorer, senior guard T.J. Price, scored 13, but scored just two in the first half after getting whistled for two fouls and playing just five minutes in the that period. Trency Jackson scored 16 for WKU, making 4 of 7 3-pointers.

Edmonds finished with 15 points and J.P. Kambola scored 10. Aleksa Nikolic dished out nine assists against just three turnovers. The Herd as a whole were much better in the turnover department, recording 10 on Saturday after giving up 19 in its first game against WKU. Marshall scored 20 points off turnovers, compared to Western Kentucky's eight.

Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni loved the atmosphere of the 6,135 fans at the Cam Henderson Center on Saturday. That made the game fun, he said, and that boosts the Herd's players. He didn't analyze all the areas his team has grown over this last six-game stretch. He just wants to see it continue when Marshall visits Middle Tennessee at 8 p.m. Thursday.

"You just play every game," he said. "Are we growing? Are we getting some experience? Yes. You can see it. It's a fairly easy answer. It's fun. It's not like you're pulling teeth. We go out, and we're going to have a good time on the court."

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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Bird, Herd have C-USA tourney spot among goals http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150212/DM03/150219674 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150212/DM03/150219674 Thu, 12 Feb 2015 21:25:14 -0500 By Derek Redd CHARLESTON, W.Va. - In past years, when Corey Bird laced up a pair of baseball spikes, he has seen nothing but success.

His Herbert Hoover team finished as 2012 Class AA runner-up and 2013 state champion. Also in 2013, he was an All-State first-team captain, the Daily Mail's Kanawha Valley player of the year and Gatorade state player of the year.

It was a much different feeling in 2014, when, as a Conference USA all-freshman team outfielder and leadoff hitter for Marshall University, the Thundering Herd finished tied for 11th in the then-13-team league and out of the running for the conference tournament.

That disappointment reinforced his belief - individual accolades may be nice, but team success what's most satisfying.

"Ever since we lost to Old Dominion last year (in the Herd's final regular-season series) ... that really put things in perspective for me," Bird said. "Team is more important than anything. The only thing that matters is winning baseball games. That's what I'm here to do."

Bird and the rest of the Herd begin their quest to bounce back - and secure a conference tournament berth that has eluded them since 2010 - this weekend with a three-game series at Florida A&M in Tallahassee, Fla.

Marshall, which finished 20-31 overall and 10-19 in C-USA last season, was picked this preseason to finish 10th in the now-12-team conference. Finishing there would have the Herd on the outside looking in at the conference tournament again, but Bird said Marshall isn't letting predictions dampen its determination.

"Every player on our team has worked exceptionally hard in the weight room, on the field and off the field," he said, "just getting themselves better and jelling as a team for this season."

Hard work has been Bird's calling card with the Herd, coach Jeff Waggoner said, and it's done quite well for him so far. In his first season in Huntington, the 6-foot-1, 193-pound lefty led Marshall with a .292 batting average, 15 stolen bases and 49 hits. His stolen base total ranked second in the conference and was just one shy of the leader.

Bird's on-base (.370) and slugging (.321) percentages were second-best on the team. His performance not only learned him all-conference freshman team accolades, but also put him on the College Sports Madness all-C-USA second team.

Waggoner said Bird is a quiet teammate, but one who leads by example through his top-level work ethic. That ethic, he said, allowed Bird to immediately become an integral part of Marshall's lineup.

"I think it's the deal with any great player - preparation," Waggoner said. "Their preparation leads to their confidence. With that hard work, he has the ability to come in and play at a high level."

Marshall returns 21 letterwinners and seven starters from last year's team, which already has earned some preseason buzz. The Herd has two players on College Sports Madness' preseason all-conference team. Bird made the first team, and junior pitcher Michael Taylor was named to the second team. Taylor, a St. Albans native, started 13 games last season and finished with a 3-6 record and 41 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings pitched.

The Herd's focus, however, is on the postseason. It wants to be part of it, and Bird said Marshall is prepared to fight for a spot.

"Like I said, the only thing that matters is winning," Bird said. "If you don't do that, no one's happy. The end of last season wasn't good enough in any way, shape or form. That's what really motivates me, personally, the end of last year and the opportunity we have this year."

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 eager for another shot at WKU http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150212/DM03/150219677 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150212/DM03/150219677 Thu, 12 Feb 2015 21:21:29 -0500 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Opposing coaches have told Marshall men's basketball coach Dan D'Antoni they can tell his Thundering Herd is playing at a different level these days. The Herd's next opponent, Western Kentucky, has been tellsing its local media the same thing.

D'Antoni and his players have felt a difference, too. When Marshall hosts WKU at 5:30 p.m. Saturday (WVAH), the Herd will find out just how much that difference will help against a team that drubbed it a little more than a month ago.

"I can't wait," sophomore guard Austin Loop said. "I've been excited all week. We're not the same team at all from when we played the first time."

The last time the Herd and Hilltoppers clashed, it was the conference opener for both on Jan. 4 in Bowling Green, Ky. The memories of that game are no fun for Marshall.

The game started out fine for the Herd, which led for much of the contest's first eight minutes. Yet once the Hilltoppers gained the advantage, it continued to grow. WKU led by as many as 32 that night on its way to an 81-62 victory.

Marshall's struggles shooting the ball - the Herd made just 19 of 57 from the floor (33.3 percent) - only got worse the further from the hoop it got. MU took 23 3-point attempts and made just five (21.7 percent). Marshall committed 19 turnovers and WKU star guard T.J. Price scored 25 points.

"They kind of sped us up a little bit," sophomore forward Ryan Taylor said. "We started missing shots. And home-court advantage, it's hard to get a win there or anywhere when you're away from home."

That loss was the fourth of nine straight for Marshall (8-16, 4-7 C-USA). The Herd snapped that streak by upsetting the University of Texas at El Paso and has won four of its last five games. It has won consecutive conference games twice this season, something it didn't do once in the previous two.

The Hilltoppers (16-7, 9-2 C-USA) had been red hot, winning 11 of 12. But that last win wasn't easy, a 65-59 victory over North Texas, which the Mean Green led as late as three minutes left in the game. Then WKU dropped a home contest to Rice, 72-68, the same Rice team the Herd beat by 14 in the game before.

Still, Western Kentucky, as of Thursday, shared the Conference USA lead with Louisiana Tech and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Price as scored at least 17 points in WKU's last four games, and forward George Fant has 10 double-doubles on the season, one less than Taylor.

D'Antoni is excited for Saturday night, mainly because of the excitement he sees everywhere else. He sees it in the players, who have become more comfortable in their new system and are reaping the rewards from it. He sees it in the Marshall fans, who are populating the Cam Henderson Center seats a lot more in recent games. The official attendance of the Herd's win over North Texas was a loud 5,276.

The first-year coach feels his team is different from the one he led into Bowling Green in January, but Saturday's game will go a long way in identifying how different it really is. As young as the Herd is, D'Antoni is hesitant to definitively label the team in any way. But he does think it's headed in the right direction.

"I keep using that same analogy," "D'Antoni said. "We can walk now. We're on our feet and walking, but were not at a full run yet. We're tottering. And you might fall down, but you've got to get right back up and start walking again."

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 Hamrick remembers time with Tarkanian at UNLV http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150211/DM03/150219761 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150211/DM03/150219761 Wed, 11 Feb 2015 23:37:03 -0500 By Derek Redd CHARLESTON, W.Va. - How popular did Jerry Tarkanian make men's basketball at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas? Frank Sinatra came to watch the Runnin' Rebels play in the 1980s. Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick knows that.

He delivered Sinatra the tickets.

Tarkanian, a Basketball Hall of Fame member who coached the Rebels to four NCAA Final Fours and the 1990 national title, died Wednesday at age 84. Hamrick has plenty of fond memories of the coach from two stints in Las Vegas - first in 1981-83 in the athletic department's promotions department and then as AD from 2003-09.

It was during his first run at UNLV when he took tickets to Sinatra, and Hamrick remembers how popular the basketball team became during Tarkanian's early years at the Las Vegas Convention Center, before the team moved to the Thomas & Mack Center in 1983.

"It was the hottest ticket in town," he said. "The shows on the Las Vegas Strip, the entertainers would schedule their shows around Runnin' Rebel basketball. The celebrities would come to the games."

When Hamrick returned to Vegas in 2003, Tarkanian's coaching career had just ended. After leaving UNLV in 1992, he spent part of the 1992-93 season as the San Antonio Spurs' head coach, then Fresno State's head coach from 1995-2002. Tarkanian attended Hamrick's introductory press conference at UNLV, would come to Runnin' Rebels games, and stop by Hamrick office to talk.

Tarkanian had plenty of stories to tell, Hamrick said, and was a fun guy to be around. The university honored Tarkanian in 2005 by naming UNLV's basketball court after him.

"I was out on the court with him when we brought him out and gave him the microphone and announced that we were naming it the Jerry Tarkanian Court, and I watched him cry," Hamrick said. "He's a legend."

That legend wasn't without controversy. Tarkanian and the NCAA battled throughout his career. Fresno State's men's basketball team was placed on probation after he retired for violations on his watch. But he also sued the NCAA for harassment and won a $2.5 million out-of-court settlement.

Tarkanian's is a nuanced biography, and Hamrick said there were plenty of layers to the coach.

"There's a perception out there about him that I don't think is necessarily all true," he said. "There's a perception of 'Tark the Shark.' He was a hell of a basketball coach. "

That is what Hamrick always will remember about Tarkanian. Along with the volumes of stories and the spectacle of Runnin' Rebel hoops, Hamrick said Tarkanian was a masterful coach.

"He was great teacher of basketball," he said. "I used to sit there, when I was young, and watch him teach and coach those guys that he had. He was right there, teaching and coaching every day. In my opinion, he's one of the greatest basketball coaches ever."

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 hoops brings buzz back to fan base http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150209/DM03/150209150 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150209/DM03/150209150 Mon, 9 Feb 2015 23:13:29 -0500 By Derek Redd CHARLESTON, W.Va. - After several minutes at the courtside monitors, the three officials handling Saturday's Marshall-North Texas men's basketball game finally signaled the end of the half. The Henderson Center crowd - already restless in disagreement with several calls and worried a whistle as time ran out would lead to Mean Green free throws - gave the trio a quick, and deafening, evaluation of their performance.

Boos rained down, echoing off the arena walls and making it hard to hear. The cheers as the Herd came back in the second half to beat North Texas were just as loud. That noise had mostly been absent the last couple of seasons, and even at the beginning of this season. But "The Cam" had once again come alive. Thundering Herd coach Dan D'Antoni thinks Marshall's fan base has started to buy into the program again.

"I do feel that," he said. "I feel they've taken to this team a little bit. I think they were a little bit hands-off at first, especially our student body."

D'Antoni knows all about raucous home courts. The day he was introduced as Marshall's new coach, he told the story of his own Hall-of-Fame Marshall career, when he and the rest of his team would take the hardwood as a packed Fieldhouse would chant, "Bring on the Herd."

At the start of his second tour at Marshall, the empty seats were much more plentiful, the product of 41 losses over the previous two seasons. D'Antoni sought to change the atmosphere of Marshall basketball games. He made sure the pep band had a prominent role. The athletic department devised ideas to revitalize student attendance.

There was another important component - wins.

Marshall's upset of UTEP, which sits fourth in the Conference USA standings, opened a few eyes. Thumping Southern Miss in Hattiesburg opened some more. Sweeping this past weekend's games against Rice - which beat C-USA co-leader Western Kentucky on Saturday - and North Texas provided another jolt.

The Herd has won four of its last five conference games, the best streak since Marshall won four straight in C-USA play during the 2011-12 season. That also was the last time the Herd had won consecutive conference contests, something it already has done twice this year. Three of those four wins have come at the Henderson Center, and sophomore Ryan Taylor said the crowd has been a major factor.

"Our home crowd has been great," Taylor said. "We're glad that they come out and watch us play every game, win or lose. Coach D'Antoni was telling us, maybe Thursday before the game, we have the third-best attendance in Conference USA and we're not even at the top of Conference USA. I think without our home crowd, we wouldn't be winning some of these games."

According to C-USA attendance figures, Marshall's average home crowd of 5,004 is third-best in the league. Now, that comes from announced attendance, which usually comes from tickets sold, which sometimes inflates that total. But the announced crowd of 5,276 at the North Texas game sounded like at least that many.

The early 3-pointer barrage had fans hopping from their seats and high-fiving each other. When calls weren't going the Herd's way, those same fans were leaping from those seats and stomping the floor in anger.

It helped, D'Antoni said, that Marshall and North Texas were locked in a pretty physical contest.

"When you get two teams competing like they're competing - I don't care if it's checkers - when two people go at each other, it's fun to watch. These two teams went at each other. Both played extremely hard. It's a great game for the fans and it's even better when you win."

Winning is probably the biggest reason the fans are coming back to Marshall's games. Even after 15 losses in 16 games, four wins in the last five have given folks reason to believe, evidence that the team is improving. Maintaining that momentum won't be easy. The Herd hosts Western Kentucky on Saturday and, after a trip next Thursday to Middle Tennessee, it visits another C-USA co-leader, the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

D'Antoni is far from satisfied right now - coaches of 8-16 teams rarely are - but he's happy to give Marshall fans a reason to cheer, and that those fans have come back to cheer.

When Jay Johnson visited Marshall last year on his recruiting trip, he saw a quiet, surly crowd and plenty of empty seats, a big difference from the scene he saw as he walked of the court Saturday.

"As I was saying to J.P. (Kambola) when we were walking back here, we're actually giving this basketball community life again," he said.

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