Herd basketball heads to Philly to take on Villanova today
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Early last December, a young Marshall team strolled into the Carrier Dome in Syracuse for a big-stage battle against the then-No. 3 and undefeated Orange.
While the Thundering Herd put forth a great effort in a 62-56 loss, it didn't pay dividends in terms of a win on that night.
But the hopes in Huntington are that experiences like that one may lead to a big-time payoff in a game like today's.
Indeed, the Herd (1-0) will get its first opportunity at a resume-building win when it travels north for a tilt with Villanova, another Big East perennial power. The game is part of the 2K Sports Classic, benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m.
Syracuse wasn't the only recent big road test for Marshall, which won at Cincinnati last season and played well at Louisville two years ago.
Maybe the most encouraging thing for Herd fans and coach Tom Herrion is the attitude of Marshall players heading into today.
"It's going to be a big test for us, going up there to Philly, in their gym - they're a Big East team and it's going to be a physical game," guard DeAndre Kane said. "But we will be ready. We'll be ready to play. We've played teams like that. We played Cincinnati last year and Syracuse, so it's nothing new to us."
"We played against a bunch of big guys last season, so it's nothing new," Nigel Spikes said. "We're just going to do our homework on them and at 1 o' clock it's time to play."
A business-as-usual attitude may be the biggest indicator of just how much this team has bought into Herrion, his system, and his way of doing things.
"A [Villanova coach] Jay Wright club a couple of years removed from the Final Four will be really ready to play," Herrion said. "They've got good players, a terrific coach. [Center Mouphtaou] Yarou inside is a horse and their guards can really shoot. They spread you out.
"We've got our hands full, we know that. Obviously we've got to get some work done [Saturday] before we travel up there. I know it's a game our kids will be excited to play."
The 6-foot-10, 255-pound Yarou averaged 11.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game last season as a junior, but if there's one thing the Herd should be equipped to handle, it's size.
In Friday's 81-47 season-opening win over Longwood, the Herd rolled out a starting lineup that consisted of Spikes (6-10, 230), Robert Goff (6-9, 240) and Dennis Tinnon (6-8, 232) at the small-forward position. With reserves J.P. Kambola (6-9, 240), Jamir Hanner (6-8, 210), Elijah Pittman (6-9, 219) and Yous Mbao (7-2, 249), you begin to see why Herd players and coach are confident in their ability to match up with a Big East foe.
"In all honesty I'm not sure there are many teams in the country that have the size that we have when we start the lineup we started tonight," Herrion said. "So, we'll see how they match up against us."
Kane led Marshall on Friday with 18 points, eight assists, four rebounds, and three blocks, while junior-college transfer D.D. Scarver also scored 18 points.
Maurice Sutton came off the bench to score a team-high 12 points in Villanova's season-opening 78-58 win over the District of Columbia on Friday.
The game will be shown on espn3.com.
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, email@example.com, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.