Herd breaks out of funk against Blue Hose
HUNTINGTON - With two monstrous putback dunks in the second half Sunday, it was official: The funk lifted from Marshall basketball, at least for a few days.
The Thundering Herd snapped its 1-7 skid with a 77-49 bushwhacking of Presbyterian, outscoring the Blue Hose 48-21 in the second half. The result gave the Herd its first win over a Division I opponent in 40 days, dating back to a 74-64 win over Western Kentucky.
After a sluggish first half, the Herd gave its announced crowd of 4,358 (half of which were likely at home watching the Bengals lose) something to smile about. And it gave MU players a good feeling entering the 16-game Conference USA schedule.
"To say this was needed would be one of my biggest understatements in three and a half years here," said MU coach Tom Herrion. "We needed to taste victory in the worst way, with this particular group this time of the year. Through all our frustrations, tribulations we've had in nonconference [games] to this point, I thought it was critical.
"And I was very concerned coming into this game about our mental state of being. I thought the heartbreak of how we lost the other night [59-58 to Akron], and the cumulative effect with this young and inexperienced team had taken a little bit of a toll. I didn't think we were very good yesterday [in practice], and I thought it carried over to the first part of the first half.
"To this team's credit, they responded and responded in a big way."
Ryan Taylor led the charge with 18 points and 12 rebounds, 12 and seven in the second half. It was his fourth double-double of the season. Shawn Smith had 16 points and Cheik Sane chipped in 10 rebounds to help Marshall win that battle 50-32. Kareem Canty, who continues to struggle with his shooting, added eight assists.
Playing the team ranked 351st and last in the Division I Rating Percentage Index (as replicated by ESPN), the Herd led 29-28 after a flat, sloppy first half. The Herd suffered nine turnovers, shot 3 of 14 from 3-point range and 31.5 percent from all distances.
After Ed Drew's jumper drew Presbyterian (4-11) within 34-32 with 17:40 left, the hammer came down. That really began when Smith slammed home a Chris Thomas miss, and then the roles reversed on the next possession. Both dunkers found an opening down the weak-side baseline and timed their soaring jumps perfectly.
That sparked a 14-4 run, finished by Smith's steal and dunk at the other end. After the lead moved up through the teens, the Herd (6-9) finished with a 15-2 run, including 10 in a row by Taylor.
The second-half numbers were reflective of that effort - the Herd outshot the Blue Hose 51.4 percent to 29.6 percent, committed only two turnovers to the visitors' seven and continued its dominance on the boards.
Don't underestimate the latter statistic - the Herd was mauled by double-digits in its last two games, losses to South Carolina and Akron. On Sunday, MU had 20 offensive rebounds to Presbyterian's 20 defensive boards - a telling ratio.
"We're tired of being punked," Canty said. "We kept being punked, kept being outrebounded ... When we rebound, we can play with anybody in the country."
BRIEFLY: Tamron Manning (groin) and Yous Mbao were held out with injuries. Mbao banged up his knee in practice, the one on which he has had surgery. ... Marshall begins league play with its longest road trip - Thursday at Texas-San Antonio and Saturday at Texas-El Paso. Tip-off times are 8 and 9:05 p.m., respectively.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.