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Herd faces tall order tonight at Vanderbilt

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After watching his offense sputter at East Tennessee State, Marshall coach Tom Herrion may get a really up-close look at how his front line looks tonight at Vanderbilt.

The Thundering Herd (4-3) continues its three-game road stretch tonight at 8 at the Commodores' famed Memorial Gym, where the team benches are behind the baseline instead of the sideline. If Herrion's forwards are bullied by the tallest team MU has faced to date, he'll see it all too well.

The height actually starts in the Vandy backcourt with a familiar face, 6-foot-4 sophomore Eric McClellan. He played his freshman year at Tulsa two seasons ago before transferring, and leads the Commodores (4-3) in scoring with 17.6 points per game.

In fact, McClellan's career high of 25 points came in Marshall's 105-100 triple-overtime win in the Conference USA tournament.

Following McClellan is 6-9 senior Rod Odom (13.3 points, team-high 5.0 rebounds per game), 6-1 senior point guard Kyle Fuller (10.4 points, 4.0 assists) and 6-10 freshman Damian Jones (8.4 points, 4.1 rebounds) and 6-11 junior Josh Henderson (7.6 points, 4.6 rebounds).

That could be trouble for a team with two 6-9 starters, Cheikh Sane and Elijah Pittman - and Pittman likes to hang out at the 3-point arc.

"They've got great balance, they're really big at a lot of different positions," Herrion said. "They're a very skilled team, they pass it very well, shoot it very well. To date, they're the biggest team we've played."

Vandy's three losses have come to bigger-name teams, at Butler (85-77, OT), to Providence (67-60) at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and at Texas (70-64).  The Commodores have beaten Georgia State, Lipscomb, Morgan State and Loyola Marymount, the latter two at the Paradise Jam.

Marshall is coming off an 88-78 loss at East Tennessee that exposed its problems against zone defenses. Herrion said Vanderbilt prefers a man-to-man, but will slip into a zone occasionally.

Perhaps more often, if MU can't do much more than shoot 30 3-pointers.

"Poor offense in the first half was the biggest contributor to our loss," Herrion said. "We shot too quickly against the zone. We need better pace, better patience on defense."

After tonight, the Herd travels to Penn State for a 4 p.m. game Saturday, streamed live on ESPN3. A week later, on Dec. 14, MU battles West Virginia at the Charleston Civic Center.

Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.

 


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