Herd again plagued by poor free-throw shooting
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The 16-2 collapse at the end is the last thing pained Marshall fans will remember from their team's 74-64 loss Saturday night to West Virginia at the Civic Center.
But they also remember all the missed free throws, and that statistic jumps off the stat sheet. The Thundering Herd shot a dismal 10 of 24 from the line, including 8 of 18 in the second half.
This is old hat for this team, which entered the game on the wrong side of 60 percent. An 8-of-24 performance pretty much cost the Herd a win over Stephen F. Austin, an 18-of-35 night helped swing the game at East Tennessee State and a 16-of-30 outing didn't help at Penn State.
There are factors that make the Herd's performance against WVU more cringe-producing. For one thing, the Herd's No. 1 clank offender, Elijah Pittman (37 misses, 48.6 percent) is indefinitely suspended and was not on the trip. For another, Kareem Canty and Chris Thomas combined to go 6 of 8 - meaning the other five who went to the line combined to go 4 of 16.
The practical effect was this: Marshall led nearly all of the first 36 minutes, but bricked free throws helped keep the margin close, removing the margin for error.
A partial list of big misses:
A push that turned into a shove, emphatically handing Marshall (4-6) its fourth loss in a row and third in the Capital Classic.
"We battled, really played hard. Proud of their effort. That's a shame," said MU coach Tom Herrion. "I think we contributed mightily to this loss tonight. Again, no disrespect to West Virginia, give them credit, all that, but gosh dang it. Ten for 24 just jumps at you, and then some critical turnovers on forced drives."
The last 4:57 is an anatomy of a classic implosion. Canty, who had 16 points and nine rebounds, scored the Herd's last field goal to give it a 62-58 lead. The remaining possessions yielded six misses - one on a layup and another on an easy putback - and two turnovers. The second was Thomas' charging foul on a badly telegraphed drive.
And you can throw in Taylor's dead-ball technical foul with 2:44 left, which resulted in two Juwan Staten free throws followed by a Staten layup. With WVU ahead 68-63, the Herd got desperate on offense.
"When we went down five, I didn't get into the lane and do what I do," Canty said. "We started moving too fast as a group, we got frustrated."
Those final minutes were a testament to the Herd's inexperience, which can best be measured with one stunning statistic: Of the nine scholarship players available and used Saturday, none scored in last year's Capital Classic. Most were not yet on the roster, of course.
Who scored Marshall's 59 points last December: D.D. Scarver 17 (left program), Pittman 16 (suspended), DeAndre Kane 13 (at Iowa State), Nigel Spikes 7 (senior), Dennis Tinnon 4 (senior) and Jamir Hanner 2 (left program).
"Our youth, it shows at the wrong times," Herrion said.
Taylor, who injured his knee in practice 10 days ago and was "very questionable" heading into Saturday, fouled out with the technical.
"Hard to do in this game," Herrion said. "Hard not to get to the bonus in the first half in this game."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.