HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - When it gets to be late February and March is in sight, it's tough to remember the beginning of the basketball season in November.
For Marshall guard Tamron Manning, November was even longer ago. Maybe a whole person ago.
"I feel like a whole different person from that guy," he said Thursday. "I'm more confident, I work with a different demeanor. I feel a lot better."
His role is not overwhelming, on paper. In the Thundering Herd's 82-70 win over Central Florida on Wednesday, Manning played 12 minutes, hitting a 3-pointer and a free throw for four points, with two assists and a turnover.
The 3-pointer wasn't insignificant, though. It gave Marshall a 71-49 lead with 9:17 left, more than enough to weather an almost-inevitable UCF run.
Just two weeks ago, it wasn't certain if the freshman from Georgetown, Ky., was worthy to see the floor, much less hit a big 3-pointer. After Marshall's Feb. 6 loss to Tulane, he was 2 of 17 from the field and 1 of 9 from 3-point range, scoring 10 points the entire season.
His fortunes have turned. He played 21 minutes in the Herd's 75-61 loss at Alabama-Birmingham on Feb. 9, largely because nobody else was effective. In his quick stint in the 71-59 home loss to Memphis, he scored in impressive basket on a drive.
"I was surprised. I was thinking I could have been doing that all night if it was that easy," Manning said. "Joe Jackson and Geron [Johnson] were pressuring me the whole night. I had to beat the pressure, make them respect me one time. The pressure kind of backed off."
Chalk that up to confidence, which is what brings freshmen to the forefront at this time of year.
"I've got great confidence in him now, much more than I did earlier in the season," said MU coach Tom Herrion. "He's deserving of some increased playing time. We were able to get [DeAndre Kane] breaks last night. Gets 'Dre' off the ball."
Manning was able to return from his first collegiate road trip victorious on Thursday morning. When the team reassembled for practice that afternoon, he looked as if he was ready to play another game.
"The trip back wasn't as bad, either," he said. "It was a lot shorter. I felt good, I felt rested."
Marshall's victory over 17-win UCF seemingly came out of nowhere, considering Marshall's 12-game drought in "true" road games dating to last season. The way the Herd shot a season-high 54.2 percent and mugged the Knights on the boards, it seemed to feel at home in Orlando.