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Marshall looks to end road drought

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Long-range shooters tend to fare better in familiar surroundings, and they definitely fare better when left open at the 3-point line.

 A combination of the two spells doom for the visiting team, more often than not, and Marshall has been doomed a few times on the road. It is one of many factors why the Thundering Herd has lost all eight of its "true" road games and is 0-11 against Division I teams away from Huntington.

Marshall (10-13, 3-5 Conference USA) will try once again to snap out of its road funk today at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Tipoff at Bartow Arena is at 3 p.m. EST.

The Herd is coming off a disaster at Tulane, a 91-75 loss in which it gave up 59 first-half points. The Green Wave tossed in eight 3-pointers in that half in 16 attempts.

Marshall coach Tom Herrion, who has consistently preached about 3-point defense since he arrived in Huntington, is not happy about either number. He prefers to force opponents to abandon the 3-pointer altogether.

In his first two seasons, he got what he wanted most of the time. In conference games in 2010-11, MU opponents hit under 30 percent from the arc, leading the league. In 2011-12, the Herd slid to second in the category, allowing a 30.9 percent success rate. The Herd allowed only 75 made 3-point baskets in each of those seasons, in 16 games.

At the halfway mark in league play, the Herd has slid to 11th in the stat as foes have hit nearly 40 percent. The eight teams have combined for 50 made 3-pointers, with 11 coming from Tulane.

"They made a lot of shots in bunches at different positions," Herrion said of the Tulane game. "It's something I take pride in and emphasize, but we had too many breakdowns in not contesting them aggressively or not being aware of personnel."

The Herd has yielded 11 3-pointers in three different games - against South Dakota State at a neutral site, at Ohio and the Tulane game. In the Ohio game and four league games on the road, those opponents have hit 45 of 95 tries, a deadly 47.3 percent.

As Herd fans painfully know, all five of those games were losses - four convincingly.

Typically, the Herd's 3-point disasters are concentrated in halves. Tulane was the second opponent to make eight in the first half, and it came two weeks after Southern Mississippi did it in that 102-46 firebombing.

Today, the Herd will face a Blazers team, under first-year coach Jerod Haase, that doesn't shoot them all that well (33.6 percent), but isn't shy about throwing them up. Six different players have taken at least 45 3-point attempts in the full season, with Jordan Swing (43 of 116, 37.1 percent) leading the barrage.

On Wednesday, Terence Jones and Quincy Taylor made three each as UAB (10-13, 2-6) went 9 of 20 in one of its more impressive wins of the season, 70-63 at Tulsa.

"They've got enough guys to make shots on the perimeter," Herrion said. "They shoot 3s quick, want to play fast. All their perimeter guys have a [big] night, from game to game."

But here's a 3-point stat that could work in MU's favor: UAB is the league's worst at defending those shots (42.9 percent), and the Herd's D.D. Scarver is playing in his home town of Birmingham. Scarver is the only C-USA player to sink a 3 in every game this season.

  • BRIEFLY: UAB owns an 11-6 lead in the all-time series, with the teams splitting last season. Marshall has won two of the last three games at Bartow Arena, however. ... Swing and Rod Rucker are tied for the UAB team lead at 13.8 points per game. Rucker, a junior-college import, is playing the power forward at 6-foot-5 but has nine double-digit rebounding games. ... Haase spent the previous 13 seasons under Roy Williams at Kansas and North Carolina. ... MU's Nigel Spikes has 14 blocks in the past three games and has climbed to sixth in C-USA at 1.7 per outing. ... After today, MU plays three of its next four at home, starting with a 7 p.m. Wednesday game against Rice. A week from today, Memphis arrives for an 8 p.m. tip.
  • Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.

     


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