Slumping Herd takes on ECU today
HUNTINGTON - As disappointing, agonizing, grating as Marshall's recent troubles have been, there is one mitigating fact: The Thundering Herd isn't losing to bad teams.
As is well documented, MU has lost six of the last seven, dating to its setback against West Virginia in the Capital Classic. Five of those have come in Conference USA play, bringing the Herd to an even 5-5 in the league standings.
The record of those five teams is a tidy 33-15. Even Alabama-Birmingham, which inflicted a stinker of a defeat on Jan. 25 in Huntington, has pulled up to 5-5 in the conference.
OK, that 33-15 record includes five wins over Marshall, with UAB also losing once to the Herd. Take those away and the count is 28-14.
Picky, picky, picky.
The point is, the Herd hasn't lost to any doormats, and they have played six of 10 league games away from home. Four of its last six games are at Cam Henderson Center, and the next three come against the league's 10th-, 11th- and 12th-place teams, who have a combined league record of 8-21.
In other words, it's time for this Herd team to get off the deck, dust itself off and win a few games. That starts tonight, as it takes on East Carolina (12-11, 3-7) at Cam Henderson Center. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.
"We've played the most road games in conference play, and we're the only school to play six of its first 10 on the road," said MU coach Tom Herrion. "That's not an excuse, it's a fact. We've got a great opportunity lying ahead of us, four out of six at home, three Saturday night games for our great fan base.
"We'll take it one at a time. East Carolina presents us with enough challenges, and we'll have our hands full with the Pirates."
For one thing, Marshall's top scorer, DeAndre Kane, is doubtful, as he will be attending the funeral of his father, Calvin, this morning in his hometown of Pittsburgh.
Kane played the day after his father passed away in the Herd's 67-60 loss at Central Florida. He put in 35 minutes, struggling to score nine points.
"I'm just so proud of the fact he wanted to be with his teammates, and be with us and participate," Herrion said. "You talk about a life-changing event for anybody, but for a 20-, 21-year old guy who's close to his dad ... I was proud of his willingness, proud of his effort."
With or without Kane, Marshall (14-10, 5-5) faces ECU twice in the next five games, returning tonight's bout Feb. 29 in Greenville, N.C. The Herd missed the Pirates' 0-6 league start, and catches them having won three of the last four. The loss came Wednesday against C-USA co-leader Memphis, 70-59.
This Pirates team has some of the key players from last year's C-USA tournament semifinalists, who knocked off regular-season champ UAB in the quarterfinals. That starts in the middle with Darrius Morrow, a 6-foot-8, 245-pound senior who averages 13.6 points and shoots 56 percent from the floor.
Morrow troubled Marshall last season, scoring 33 points in an 82-81 upset of the Herd at the Henderson Center. That remains his career high.
Outside, Missouri transfer Miguel Paul runs the offense as a high-scoring, high-assist point guard. He leads the team with 16 points per game, but leads the league with 129 assists, 5.6 per outing.
He is third in C-USA in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.3), fifth in scoring, fourth in 3-pointers made (54) and seventh in 3-point percentage (.372). He is part of an offense that tries about 22 3-pointers a game.
"They shoot 3s a lot, and shoot pretty well from 3," Herrion said. "They space the floor, so you've got to kind of pick your poison. With Morrow in the post, he is one of, if not the best back-to-the-basket scorers in the conference. They shoot 3s to give him enough space to operate."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.