'In the zone' has a new meaning for Herd's Herrion
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - When Tom Herrion came aboard as Marshall coach in 2010, zone defenses were not part of the plan.
It just wasn't going to happen. Even if an opposing player buried a few 3-pointers in a row, he would order his defender to get out on him, with the others helping out in the open space as needed.
Those days have passed, to some degree. Last weekend, during Marshall's longest Conference USA road trip of the season, Herrion changed up everything.
After the Herd suffered an unexpected 90-81 loss last Thursday at Texas-San Antonio, Herrion came to a decision for the game two days later at Texas-El Paso: The time had come to play zone.
The Herd has played zone this season, but not 40 minutes' worth. That's what the coach ordered at UTEP, a 1-3-1 of sorts with matchup principles.
"We determined after San Antonio, that night, we were getting into it and [assistant coach] Mark [Cline] had been on the [scouting of UTEP] ahead of time," Herrion said. "Especially with the change in their roster, we just felt like we had bad matchups across the board."
Those bad matchups involved smaller personnel trying to guard the Miners, who were turned into a taller team by the dismissal of three players. UTEP coach Tim Floyd had to reshuffle his lineup, putting 6-foot-8 Julian Washburn at the "two" guard at times, 6-11 John Bohannon at the "four" power forward, and so on.
And the memory of the Herd's loss at UTSA was fresh in memory. You name it: The Roadrunners shoot 57 percent, nearly matched the Herd rebound for rebound and took advantage of foul trouble.
MU's fouls were the root of it all, considering Ryan Taylor and TyQyane Goard were in trouble all game. They played a combined 35 minutes before fouling out.
"And foul trouble at San Antonio is one of the many things that did us in," Herrion said. "So the zone, we felt, could protect a little bit more some of the foul trouble. We pressed [and went] back to the zone on makes and we played zone on misses, and I thought the zone was more than good enough to win the game."
It was for 35 minutes, anyway, in the Herd's 66-56 loss. In the second half, the Miners hit six of their first seven shots to turn a 27-27 tie into a 42-29 lead.
Then again, the Herd offense soured in those game-turning five minutes, going 1 of 6 with a turnover.
"Our offense let us down, in my opinion."
Conference USA teams have entered a new world, schedule-wise, playing a mostly Thursday-Saturday format with "travel partners." Coaches in the overhauled membership wanted to get away from the Wednesday-Saturday format in order to consolidate road trips.
In the one-year-only format involving 16 teams, the Herd has those quick turnarounds on seven weekends. Two other weeks involve a single game against travel partner Charlotte.
This week, the Herd plays twice at Cam Henderson Center, taking on North Texas at 7 p.m. Thursday and Tulsa at noon Saturday. The latter game will be televised by CBS Sports.
But Marshall, being the home team, is much better equipped to handle the quick turnaround. Tulsa must play at Charlotte on Thursday night, then make the trip north.
That may give the Herd an advantage, but Herrion has to get his team to Thursday night as healthy and fresh as possible. With a less-than-full roster and a few injuries, that's not easy.
"There's no exact science to that. By feel, you've got to juggle," Herrion said Monday. "Today's staff meeting was that - today, Chris Thomas is out, oral surgery this morning, extracted a tooth, he's out. It had been put off before. We think he'll be back, if not [Tuesday] then, hopefully, by [today's] practice.
"Yous [Mbao] is on a shelf again. Tamron [Manning] won't practice, coming off the heels of the trip. The question is how do you juggle Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and you know you've got to play Thursday-Saturday in less than 48 hours? It's a juggling act, and it's something you've got to continue to manage, and it's part of my job."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter. com/dougsmock.