Foul play gums up flow of game
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Marshall's loss to Morehead State on Sunday featured more marching than an Army boot camp.
To the free-throw line, anyway.
The foul-related numbers from the Eagles' 102-94 overtime win over the Thundering Herd are staggering. It starts with 76 fouls, 44 for the Herd and 32 for Morehead.
That brought a mind-numbing 108 free throws and eight disqualifications, five for Marshall.
Sure, there were five extra minutes and Marshall fouled at the end. If you want the end-of-regulation numbers, here they are: 68 fouls (37 MU, 31 Morehead), 90 free throws (Morehead 51, Marshall 39) and seven disqualifications (MU four, Morehead three).
Do the smaller numbers help the aesthetics amid the NCAA's emphasis on reducing contact? Not really.
More important, how will coaches and players adjust?
"You guys have an answer?" MU coach Tom Herrion asked the postgame media gathering. "Twenty-five years, I have never - make sure I am very clear, I am not complaining - I've never seen 108 free throws.
"I'm not complaining one bit about the officiating. We had three good guys on the game today. I talk about adjusting, we didn't adjust, we got beat too easy and let them live on the foul line."
Oh, Morehead dined on the line, overcoming an eight-miss streak to hit 40. Marshall was running out of people to go to the line - after Yous Mbao became MU's player to reach five fouls, the Herd had Elijah Pittman, Kareem Canty, DeVince Boykins, Chris Thomas and Tamron Manning, plus walk-ons Austin Loop and Kevin McNair.
Go ahead and fill five "true" positions with that. Herrion called his lineup "scrambled eggs."
In the first half, Morehead was on the dark side of the foul ledger. The Eagles had 21 fouls, two with four and two with three. Marshall had 27 free throws to Morehead's 22.
However you put, it all 21 players who played Sunday probably heard whistles in their sleep - if they slept.
"It's going to take a few months [to adjust]," said MU's Elijah Pittman. "Usually, when you're guarding somebody and you put a hand up and touch them, usually they don't call a foul. But now, you do that and they move one step [makes whistle sound] and it's a foul.
"That's so hard to adjust to if you're used to shadow-guarding and putting your hand on people."
You want to run a fast-paced offense? Good luck - running is stalled when the ball is whistled dead.
"It slows the game down a lot," Pittman said. "Some people like the game slow, some people like it fast, but it slowed down our game down a lot. We're a transition, fast team, and when there's a bunch of whistles back and forth, now we're kind of playing a halfcourt game."
Until the fouling abates, one way or another, teams need to prepare to go deep into their benches. Another need is all too simple to say, tougher to do - hit your free throws.
The Herd hit 29 of 43, but DeVince Boykins badly missed two potential game-winners with 1.1 seconds left in regulation. Morehead then hit all 14 in overtime.
"I've got to play my whole team, especially with all these fouls called," said Morehead coach Sean Woods. "Everybody in the country is going to need their whole bench, and that's the way I'm coaching."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.