CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Cheik Sane is back to playing at full speed and with full confidence. Seven-foot-2 Yous Mbao has returned to the lineup, giving a few minutes here and there.
If TyQuane Goard can return to the court, it will be all the better for Marshall, which needs all the physical presence inside it can muster tonight.
The Thundering Herd inside game will face a stern test tonight against Charlotte, the only Conference USA team MU faces twice this regular season. Tipoff time is 7 p.m. at Halton Arena.
Sane, the 6-foot-9 junior from Senegal, finally had his foot injury healed enough to play a full load of minutes last weekend against Southern Mississippi and Tulane. The Herd (8-17 overall, 2-8 C-USA) lost both games on late 3-pointers, but Sane tallied some encouraging numbers.
Especially in the Tulane game on Sunday. In 32 minutes, he scored a career-high 11 points, pulled down seven rebounds, shot 3 of 4 from the floor and 5 of 6 from the line. He added a blocked shot and three steals.
He did so without Goard available to spell him, and he took on big men such as 6-9 Kevin Thomas, 6-10 Ryan Smith and 7-foot Tomas Bruha.
Herd coach Tom Herrion described Sane's injury as being "in a really weird place," though it wasn't a fracture.
"That injury set him back a bit," Herrion said. "It really lingered; he's close to 100 percent now. He gives us a presence because of his physicality; he likes contact. People bounce off him a bit, because he's strong and physical by nature. He gives us a different dimension.
"Playing the two true centers over the weekend helped us a lot."
After the West Virginia game on Dec. 14, Sane missed the next two games, against Alice Lloyd and Arkansas State. He returned Dec. 30 at South Carolina.
Whether it was his eagerness to return or Marshall's need in the post - likely both - Sane might have come back too soon. He averaged 14 minutes over the next 11 games, scoring 21 points total on 7-of-19 shooting.
Neither Sane nor Goard was getting support from Mbao, who injured his knee after the Akron game and missed the next nine contests. Mbao saw his first C-USA action of the season last weekend, recording two points and two rebounds in 21 combined minutes.
Charlotte (14-9, 5-5) boasts one of the better big duos in the league in 6-9, 237-pound Willie Clayton and 6-11, 257-pound Mike Thorne Jr., both sophomores. Clayton averages 11.9 points and 8.9 rebounds, while Thorne averages 9.4 and 6.7 with a team-high 20 blocks.
Goard vowed this week to return to that jungle. The 6-7 George Washington High graduate missed last weekend with a shoulder injury, perhaps a bruise.
"It's a little bit of a mystery, to be honest with you," Herrion said. "One of the days in practice last week, I think. We think it's a bone bruise or a sprain of some sort."