Herd losing battle on the boards
HUNTINGTON - If your hot-and-cold shooting team must take 28 3-point attempts, you're going to have to rebound them well.
Marshall did the former and didn't do the latter, thus extending its recent misery. After its 68-57 loss to Southern Methodist, the Thundering Herd has lost three in a row and seven of its last nine.
As coach Tom Herrion put it, defense and rebounding were bigger culprits than the Herd's proclivity to settle for 3-point shots.
Marshall launched those 28 rainbows out of 59 field-goal attempts, a ratio of nearly 50 percent. It is not the highest ratio, though - the Herd tried more 3-pointers than 2-pointers against Villanova (loss), Tulsa (win) and Southern Mississippi (catastrophic loss).
Of the 21 missed three 3-pointers Wednesday night, the Herd got the rebound on only seven - and only once in the last 17 minutes. Of the eight resulting empty possessions in that stretch, SMU scored twice on dunks.
The other empties came during SMU offensive droughts, so the Herd "merely" missed the chance to start or sustain rallies. That showed, as the Herd got no closer than five points in the second half, which it started with a 12-point deficit.
Overall, MU lost the rebounding battle 41-35. The Herd had 15 offensive rebounds to 10 for SMU, but that's a misleading stat. Instead, a comparison of Marshall's 15 offensive boards to SMU's 31 defensive boards doesn't look so shiny.
That's a .326 offensive rebounding percentage and, yes, Conference USA keeps rankings in that category. Here's another telling spin: In all games, Marshall remains second behind league co-leader Southern Mississippi at .385, but tumbles to ninth in league games (.325).
Marshall's board problems against SMU came despite Dennis Tinnon pulling down 17, a season high and two off his career best. Elijah Pittman added eight, his second-best of the season.
So that means somebody else wasn't pulling his weight underneath, and you can start with the center position, manned by starter Nigel Spikes and fellow senior Robert Goff. The two played a combined 41 minutes, accounting for an offensive rebound and a defensive rebound each.
SMU's starting center, 6-foot-10 Cannen Cunningham, doubled their total with eight rebounds in 29 minutes.
Another Spikes/Goff stat: In Marshall's two conference wins plus the one-point loss at Memphis, they combined for an average 13.7 rebounds. In the three other league games, all double-digit losses, they combined for 10 rebounds - total.
The third option in the middle, Yous Mbao, has played just nine minutes in two conference games. The 7-foot-2 Senegal native may have extenuating circumstances, namely his extended absence after his practice collision with Goff.
But it also points to a trend of Herrion shortening his bench. Against SMU, his five usual starters (DeAndre Kane, Pittman, Tinnon, Spikes and D.D. Scarver) plus Goff accounted for 184 of the possible 200 minutes, with four reserves getting the other 16. Those four accounted for one rebound, one foul and two turnovers.
Marshall scored two bench points (including Goff), tying the season low set against West Virginia.
The Herd (9-12, 2-4) stays home Saturday, but the task doesn't get any easier. Donnie Jones' Central Florida team invades Cam Henderson Center for a 2 p.m. tip, and the Knights (15-5, 5-1) have won four in a row.
One qualifier, though: The Knights' vanquished foes have a combined 8-25 record in C-USA games. Their league loss came against 3-4 East Carolina.
They will face the four other teams with winning league records in six of their last nine games, including co-leaders Memphis and Southern Miss twice each.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsmock@ wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.