MU has to adjust, weather storm
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When the final buzzer sounded in the Civic Center on Saturday, one couldn't do much except check the scoreboard - which reflected a 72-56 Cincinnati win over Marshall - and shrug.
The game went down as expected. Marshall went down as expected.
All because Marshall's season hasn't gone as expected.
After the No. 11 Bearcats pressed the Thundering Herd like a waffle iron, forcing 20 turnovers, few could ignore what's happened to MU - including Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin.
"Before the season, we expected Kareem Canty at the [point guard position] and DeAndre Kane at the [shooting guard position]," Cronin said. "I'm sure they'll soldier on, but we expected a different team."
The highly regarded Canty, you may know, was ruled academically ineligible. Kane, Marshall's leading scorer, is out with an injured right hand.
MU coach Tom Herrion gave a short, succinct update of Kane after the game.
"He's hurt. He's out. He's out indefinitely," Herrion said.
That hurts. Not only is Kane one of Marshall's best scorers, he's the closest the school has to a bona fide point guard sans Canty.
You could see the way it hurt Marshall on Saturday. You could see the way it hurt shooting guard D.D. Scarver.
The junior had 20 points, mainly because of 5-for-7 shooting beyond the 3-point arc. He added four rebounds and had but one turnover.
But the junior college transfer seemed particularly hurt and uncomfortable with the loss.
"Tough loss," Scarver said. "We played bad. I played bad. Just a tough loss, man. I made shots, but I need to rebound more and play better defense."
Especially against a fine team like Cincinnati. After the game, former Charleston High and UC standout Mike Jones met up with Cronin.
"We were a little sloppy early," Cronin told Jones, "but this is our style."
It is a full-court, pressing, trapping style that has buoyed the Bearcats, now 10-0, to the verge of a Top 10 ranking.
"We play 10 guys," Cronin said. "Whether DeAndre Kane would have played or not, we've got 10 guys - really 11 [to play meaningful minutes]. That's our comfort zone."
Marshall, meanwhile, is not in its comfort zone. After losing to West Virginia, it barely got past Coppin State (69-63) before wilting to Cincinnati's pressure in the second half Saturday before an announced crowd of 5,432.
Scarver pointed to the loss of Kane.
"DeAndre is our main ball handler," said the junior. "That kind of hurt us. DeAndre would have helped us."
Herrion bristled at the suggestion.
"We've got enough," said the Marshall coach. "The guys who dress, we've got to get them ready. I have to do a better job, clearly. We need to play better in a lot of areas. But you're supposed to play hard. And we didn't play very smart. We didn't play strong with the ball. We didn't play well enough to beat a really good team."
Indefinitely, though, MU is handicapped.
"They've just got to weather the storm," Cronin said. "If they had Canty and Kane, they'd be a serious team. Even without them, though, they can still gather themselves and be a good team. It will just take a while without Kane."
Cronin knows he has a winning hand with his team.
"If we stay healthy, we have a chance to have a special season," he said. "I'm not going to let us get distracted."
By that, of course, he means the "orderly evolution" announced on Saturday by the Big East Catholic basketball schools that are breaking away from UC's conference.
Cronin was candid about the news.
"I don't blame [the departing schools]," he said. "My take is football is the one sport that's dictated all of this. We're here in a state [of West Virginia] where the closest [Big 12 conference game] is 800 miles away. It's ridiculous."
"I've thought about this. If all this is about money and money grabbing, the players should get paid."
Indeed, it's a different time in college sports. It's an unexpected scenario for Marshall. It's time for all to adjust.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.