HUNTINGTON - Per the new Conference USA scheduling format, Marshall is back at Cam Henderson Center home for two games this week. For the Thundering Herd to stop its plunge, that home has to become sweet again.
Today, the obstacle is Florida International and the tip time is 7 p.m.
Marshall's home record remains above water, 6-4. But when you remove the two games against non-Division I opponents, the mark is 4-4. The Thundering Herd has two sub-.500 seasons in the 33-year history of the Henderson Center, 1991-92 (4-9) and 2004-05 (4-8). Both were shaky, 20-loss teams.
The homestand two weeks ago offered no help and, to some MU followers, little hope. First, the Herd was swamped early against North Texas; second, it fell face-first down the stretch against Tulsa. MU's last game, the 98-77 loss at Louisiana Tech, was about as forgettable.
Tonight, the Herd (7-14, 1-5) will try to do something about its situation against the Panthers (11-9, 3-2).
"Everybody's excited for these two home games," said MU forward Ryan Taylor, reigning C-USA freshman of the week. "Two winnable home games where we've just got to come out and play to the best of our ability all 40 minutes."
The Panthers are enjoying a somewhat good start to their Conference USA basketball existence. They have defeated Rice, East Carolina and Florida Atlantic, but their two league losses are ugly - 85-51 at Louisiana Tech and 52-36 against Old Dominion.
FIU is led by Tymell Murphy, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound senior who averages 16.4 points and 8.0 rebounds. A first-team all-Sun Belt selection last season, he is shooting 61 percent from the floor.
"He's really strong, left-handed," said MU coach Tom Herrion. "Scores in transition, he'll post, really drives it, makes enough [outside] shots to keep you somewhat honest. High-motor kid, rebounds it really well."
Averaging 13.3 points and 9.1 rebounds is a name some Herd fans might remember - Rakeem Buckles. Think Louisville, to whom Marshall lost 80-66 on Nov. 27, 2010. Then a sophomore, Buckles started and scored 12 points with seven rebounds for the Cardinals.
The 6-7 Buckles is now a fifth-year senior described as a good inside-out player with good length and athletic ability.