Subplots plentiful as Herd hosts Morehead State tonight
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Queue up the subplots when Marshall faces Morehead State at 7 tonight at Cam Henderson Center.
For starters, it's the 94th meeting between the schools, located roughly 65 miles apart, and the first since Dec. 1, 2007. Marshall (3-3) leads the series 49-44.
Since the last meeting, the Eagles (4-2) have gone to two NCAA tournaments, beating Louisville in the first round of the 2011 edition, cultivated an NBA starter in Kenneth Faried and have seen coach Donnie Tyndall move on to Southern Mississippi.
Tyndall's replacement, Sean Woods, provides the most curious subplot. Woods is scheduled to return to the Eagles' bench after the school suspended him one game for shoving point guard Devon Atkinson in the Nov. 21 game at Kentucky. Woods was angered when Atkinson fouled out with 5:51 left in an 81-70 loss.
The shove and Woods' accompanying diatribe netted 700,000 views on YouTube - not great for a program that has enjoyed good national publicity over the last few years. With that, MSU's administration reined him in with the suspension.
The incident overshadows the coaching credentials of Woods, who, as a player, put Kentucky ahead of Duke in the 1992 NCAA tournament before Christian Laettner's famed jumper at the buzzer.
Woods took Mississippi Valley State's program from a 25-game loser to a 21-game winner by last season, earning an NCAA bid. He's in his first season at Morehead State.
"The one thing I know is he's got them playing extremely hard," said MU coach Tom Herrion. "I've been very impressed in how hard they play. Their competitiveness, their intensity are clearly reflective of their coach."
On the home team's side, the No. 1 subplot revolves around the Thundering Herd's top gun, the enigmatic DeAndre Kane.
On one hand, Kane's getting that point guard thing down pretty well. So well that his 13-assist effort Saturday night against Nevada placed him second in the nation at 9.2 per game, a tick behind the 9.3 of Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams.
On the other hand, there is Kane's collapse at the free-throw line, his stunning 3-of-14 effort Saturday. He caught a tough bounce or two early, then lost his stroke completely down the stretch. He missed his last seven, airballing two.
That brought his success level down to 48.9 percent on the season, and sent him back to practice - after the game. He barely waited until the arena cleared out before regaining his form.
"He got the shanks. I get them all the time when I play golf," Herrion joked. "It became somewhat mechanical, but I'm sure it was mostly mental. I happened to catch him after I met with the media and I stayed with him for a while. I didn't say a word to him. He went out and made a bunch in a row."
As a team, Marshall shoots an even 60 percent, and that includes the 88 percent by Elijah Pittman and the 81.8 percent D.D. Scarver.
Kane (16.5 points per game), Pittman (15.5), Scarver (13.7) and Dennis Tinnon (12.7) form the Herd's quartet of double-figure scorers. Scarver is the leading 3-pointer shooter (15 of 36, 41.7 percent) and Nigel Spikes is the team's leading rebounder, even outboarding Tinnon 8.5 to 7.8.
The Herd's biggest battle tonight comes against 6-foot-6 forward Milton Chavis, who leads Morehead State in everything - or so it seems.
Chavis leads the Eagles in field-goal shooting (55.6 percent), 3-pointers (13 of 26, 50 percent), points (18.5 average) and steals (16). He is close to the team lead in rebounds (5.2) and blocks (four).
"He's a very versatile scorer, good size for a wing player," Herrion said. "They've got great depth. Sean's playing 10 or 11 guys, but Chavis is the guy they've built things around offensively."
One odd Morehead stat: The Eagles are on the wrong end of a lopsided foul count. They have been whistled for 151 fouls to 92 for their opponents, and have shot just 101 free throws to 160 for foes.
Of course, if Kane and his mates don't shoot better from the line, that becomes a wash - sort of like it did in the Herd's 89-82 win over Nevada. Marshall had 10 more foul shots, but Nevada actually made two more.
Marshall will again play without big men Robert Goff and Yous Mbao, injured last week in a hard collision during a rebounding drill. Herrion said Goff is much closer to returning, perhaps even for Marshall's game Saturday against North Carolina-Wilmington.
"Yous has a much longer road," Herrion said.
DeVince Boykins, the guard recovering from his knee injury during his redshirt year, is closer to returning.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.