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Herd better off without Pittman?

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- UNLESS MARSHALL coach Tom Herrion lets him magically rappel from the Charleston Civic Center catwalk, leading scorer Elijah Pittman will not play tonight in the Capital Classic.

And Marshall will have a better chance of beating West Virginia because of it.

Yes, I'm hatin' a bit. For those of us following the Thundering Herd, whether in an objective work capacity or otherwise, Pittman is driving us to distraction. (Though not to the basket, as he rarely does.)

Apparently, Herrion has been driven in the same manner. He confirmed as much Monday, when he announced he is suspending Pittman indefinitely.

Herrion isn't giving up the specific sin Pittman committed to get grounded, and I'm not sure there is one single infraction. I'm not sure Pittman pulled something along the lines of Justin Coleman, the highly touted prospect who pulled out a cell phone on the bench at Belmont and was correctly run out of Huntington.

I caught a glimpse of Pittman's act a year ago, as I entered the Civic Center. I didn't make it to what was the chair of Steve Cotton, the best radio play-by-play man you can hear tonight, before I heard the screeching strains of Herrion tossing Pittman out of practice.

Now, Herrion could have been attempting a psychological ploy on the 6-foot-9 native of Covington, Ky., or Pittman could have simply been dogging it Allen Iverson-style. ("It's practice, man! Practice!") Or both.

Heaven only knows how Pittman comported himself during the Herd's recent three-loss road swing before final exams. I just know his suspension was announced two days after the 90-77 loss at Penn State, an afternoon in which he went 1 of 5 from the 3-point arc and 1 of 6 at that straight line 15 feet from the basket.

I witnessed the front end of that swing, a rather dismal 88-78 loss at East Tennessee State. I witnessed one of the more inexcusable technical fouls.

When Pittman went to the line for two shots, he was yapping quite a bit. Perhaps distracted by his gift of gab, he missed both. One official, clearly dialed in on the conversation, slapped Pittman with a "T" after the second brick.

It was a bad, bad look for somebody the Herd needed to be the team leader, filling the void left by now-Iowa State star DeAndre Kane. And Pittman, averaging 21.4 points per game, has had plenty of bad looks.

Many have come from the free-throw line, where he is 35 of 72, a smidge on the wrong side of .500. And bear this in mind: He went 10 of 11 in the foulapalooza at Morehead State.

So yank out the good game and he's 25 of 63 - just on the wrong side of .400.

He was on the wrong side of the "flagrant-two" rule, and is on the wrong side of a misdemeanor battery charge, the latter which is scheduled for trial on a game day in January. Pittman was tossed for an elbow to the neck five minutes into the home game against Western Kentucky, in which the Herd roared back from a 16-point deficit to win going away.

That was clearly the Herd's best game of the nine-game season, at least in the last 30 minutes - when Pittman was taking a lengthy shower.

So was that addition by subtraction, something the thinned-out Herd could experience tonight?

"Hard to tell. That was the only measuring stick we have," Herrion said. "That was a unique set of circumstances. We'll see; we'll find out."

Yes, we will. I don't give the Herd a great shot tonight, but it may be better than it was a week ago.

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


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