CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As Marshall tries once again to prove it can play outside of its own gym, something happened to the opponent for its regular-season finale.
East Carolina, which hosts MU at 5 p.m. today, looks a lot little better than it did back when the teams met Jan. 19 in Huntington. The Thundering Herd spanked the Pirates early and often, taking a 33-9 lead en route to a 77-56 victory.
The Pirates (17-11, 8-7) haven't necessarily made the rest of Conference USA walk the plank - they're even 2-3 at home since the MU game. Yet they have clinched the No. 4 seed in the middle-heavy C-USA standings and a first-round bye in the 11-team league tournament.
More important for Marshall (13-17, 6-9), ECU forward Maurice Kemp, point guard Miguel Paul and 3-point bomber Akeem Richmond haven't gone anywhere. The Herd must figure out how to slow them down again.
In January, the Herd held ECU to 32.8 percent shooting, still the Pirates' lowest of the season. Richmond came off the bench to hit half his 3-point tries, but his teammates went 1 of 10.
That doesn't happen all the time - the Pirates lead the league in 3-pointers made (223) by at least 13 over anybody else. And recently, long-range shooters have feasted on the Herd's defense.
Marshall has plummeted to last in C-USA games in 3-point defense, allowing foes to shoot 38.5 percent. Since the first ECU game, Herd foes have hit on 50 percent or better from long range four times, with three more hitting 44 percent or better. Houston and Southern Miss combined to hit 19 of 38, an even 50 percent.
From all distances, the Herd has given up 50 percent-plus performances five times, losing four. But the last two have come against the last two opponents, Houston and Southern Mississippi. The former roughed up Marshall a week ago in Houston, winning 103-76.
But Wednesday night in the 88-84 win over Southern Miss, the Herd's offense clicked pretty nicely. The Herd shot a season-high 55.1 percent, beating the old mark set three games earlier at Central Florida.
Don't take that as a trend, though. Between the two high-efficiency games, the Herd shot a season-low 26.3 at home against Alabama-Birmingham, and only improved that to 36.4 percent against Houston.
Marshall has other trends it is trying to buck. A win today would give MU its first two-game winning streak since Dec. 1, and would be the second "true" road win in 12 tries. And perhaps it would give the Herd momentum going into the Conference USA tournament, which begins Wednesday at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.