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Second-half malaise sinks Thundering Herd

Chip Ellis
Marshall's DeAndre Kane is sandwiched by WVU's Kevin Noreen (left) and Keaton Miles.

The stat sheet from the Capital Classic dutifully notes that Dennis Tinnon had 10 rebounds.

Today's Conference USA standings will duly note that Marshall has sole possession of first place for the first time ever. With Memphis losing to Central Florida on Wednesday, the Herd (13-5 overall) stands alone at 4-0 in C-USA.

But after the Thundering Herd absorbed a 76-62 beak-busting from West Virginia, the aforementioned facts will impress nobody. Neither Tinnon, the Herd's rebounding machine, or coach Tom Herrion will have their feelings hurt.

Tinnon certainly won't have his feelings hurt, not after he went all the way to the 4:55 mark in the second half without an offensive rebound. By then, the Mountaineers owned a double-digit lead, which it didn't come close to letting go.

All told, the Herd was outscored 48-32 in the second half, coming out of a halftime tied at 30. The Herd has suffered one similarly disastrous second half, New Year's Day at home against Akron.

The parallels are eerie. In the earlier game, the teams were tied at 27, and the Zips outscored the Herd 40-24 to take a 67-51 win - yes, a 16-point victory.

Put those second halves together, and Herrion can show his team one whale of a horror movie. Or he can put together a montage of his team getting outworked on the boards, where it suffered its first deficit in 19 games.

"Mightily," Herrion said in describing it. "I thought they were absolutely quicker, stronger, faster, more aggressive to the ball. We did a poor job - we didn't find a body to block out, we reached, we tipped, we weren't aggressive enough."

The Herd was outrebounded 37-27, and outdone on the offensive glass 11-9. And that's a bit misleading - the Herd picked up five such boards in the final 7:33.

Tinnon was eaten up down low, and he gave credit to his conquerors.

"They knew what their goal was, as far as stopping me on the glass, and they did a good job with that," Tinnon said. "Bodies were coming from everywhere, left, right, behind me, in front of me. They're knew what they were supposed to do."

But even in the Akron disaster, the Herd wasn't outrebounded. That hasn't happened since the 2011 C-USA tournament quarterfinals against Texas-El Paso - 19 games ago.

It didn't seem to matter that the Mountaineers were playing without big Deniz Kilicli, who sat out with an ankle injury. The way WVU players were hitting the glass and diving for loose balls, they all could have been 3-foot-6.

When the Herd did get good position for a rebound, it still squandered possession. Take the series when the Herd finally got its first offensive rebound of the game. And its second - Nigel Spikes and DeAndre Kane both missed putbacks.

Or take the time, with WVU up just 42-37, when Tinnon and Damier Pitts had an easy rebound of a Truck Bryant missed 3-pointer. Somehow, the play ended with Tinnon watching Pitts fall out of bounds with the ball, giving WVU the ball back.

And then the Herd lost another rebound off a Gary Browne miss. Finally, Jabarie Hinds' mid-range jumper swished, making it 44-37. The Herd never got closer.

"It was all miscommunication. I was running for the ball, Pitts was running for the ball and I was trying to tell him I had the ball and was going to get it," Tinnon said. "It was a misunderstanding.

"That's how the whole game went. We were chasing balls, and we weren't getting them. We weren't focused enough to go get them, and that killed us."

By all rights, the Herd should have been ahead at the half, perhaps substantially. It took a 27-20 lead with 3:12 left, on a spectacular 12-3 run engineered by DeAndre Kane and Justin Coleman.

Kane scored off a steal, scored on an alley-oop pass from Pitts and scored off a Yous Mbao block. But he and his teammates probably got too greedy, misfiring on two lobs.

Had Kane connected with Coleman on an attempted dunk, Herd fans might have jumped out of the building. That missed, and so did Kane's next lob, inside for Robert Goff.

Before those, the Herd allowed WVU to rebound a missed free throw, which eventually resulted in Aaron Brown's bank-shot jumper. That, and an awful turnover on an inbounds pass with 5.6 seconds, allowed the Mountaineers to tie it before the first-half buzzer.

"We did a poor job closing out the first half, and it carried over into the second half," Herrion said.

And when it carried over, Marshall suffered its second 20-minute stretch of malaise in the calendar year. It must forget that by Saturday, when it travels to Southern Miss in its first game as C-USA leader.

Herrion knows he will have to re-instill his values in his team in short order. It starts with the effort plays - offensive rebounds, loose balls and the like.

"They got to every 50-50 basketball," Herrion said. "They dove and we bent. Ball on the floor and we bent, they dove. There's a big difference."

Reach Doug Smock at 304-444-1083 or dougsmock@wvgazette.com.

 


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