HUNTINGTON - Showing it can't stand a little prosperity, Marshall returned to its frustrating habits Saturday and had a 65-57 loss to Florida Atlantic to show for it.
The setback means the Thundering Herd (8-15, 2-6) still hasn't won back-to-back games since Thanksgiving. The Herd defeated Florida International on Thursday, creating an opportunity for its first weekly sweep of the Conference USA season.
Also, MU failed in bids to hopscotch the Owls (8-14, 3-4 C-USA) and make a run toward the middle of the pack in the league standings. With three road games ahead, at league co-leader Southern Miss, Tulane and Charlotte, a win Saturday was critical.
In a matinee game before 4,802 at Cam Henderson Center, the Herd suffered a 10-0 run over a six-minute stretch of the first half, struggled against a zone again and settled for 15 3-point tries in the second half.
But offense wasn't the No. 1 problem, according to coach Tom Herrion.
"Didn't defend, didn't rebound, end of story, game over," Herrion said succinctly.
Start with the Owls' 53.2 percent shooting, led by Pablo Bertone (8 of 15, 20 points) and Justin Raffington (8 of 9, 19 points). Bertone hit from inside, outside and everywhere in between, while Raffington simply had his way inside.
Raffington, a 6-foot-9 native of Germany, had 10 rebounds to boot, all on the defensive end. Marshall's Ryan Taylor and TyQuane Goard simply couldn't get position on him, and FAU finished with a 37-29 rebounding advantage.
And just think - the Owls didn't have injured 7-footer Dragan Sekelja.
"They were tough. They blocked me out and TyQuane, tried to keep us off the glass," Taylor said. "Usually we get a lot of stick-back buckets off of misses and we didn't do that today."
The rest of the story was Marshall's offensive struggles. The Herd had only 11 turnovers and made 14 assists on 21 baskets, but ... well, there were only 21 baskets. That can happen when you shoot just 38.9 percent.
In the first 10:19 of the game, Chris Thomas abused the Owls by driving the lane for 11 points. The Herd was shooting 9 of 16 at that juncture and held a 19-17 lead.
But those offensive riches became rags for the rest of the half as the Herd hit just 1 of 9 over the final 9:41. That allowed the Owls to go on that 10-0 run, turning a 19-17 MU lead into a 27-19 FAU advantage.
One difference? FAU coach Mike Jarvis, somewhat reluctantly, went to a flexible 2-3 zone after realizing his team wasn't stopping Thomas or anybody else the dribble. It worked for most of the final 29 minutes.