HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Five games into its season, Marshall is trying to solve its greatest mystery: Why is this team getting outmuscled on the boards?Don't fall for the Thundering Herd's plus-6.4 rebound margin overall. The minus-14 margins at Villanova and at Hofstra are confusing to coach Tom Herrion, rebounding maestro Dennis Tinnon and everybody else who knows the Thundering Herd program."I'm a little befuddled, to be honest with you," said Herrion, in his third year at MU. "It flares up again with Hofstra, Villanova a 'true' road game, that's concerning to me that we've been outrebounded in both situations, quite glaringly."That's one thing I thought we'd hang our hat on, every night. Maybe minus-2 here and there, but not the discrepancy there has been. That's probably been a little more alarming than a lot of other things."
Tinnon's goal, besides leading his team to a couple-dozen wins and more, is to lead the nation in rebounding, period. Offense, defense, you name it - but he's a mere eighth in Conference USA.He is stunned about his team's board woes more than Herrion, perhaps, because he knows his team doesn't exactly dance through practice."We do that 'war drill' [in practice], we beat up on each other," Tinnon said. "But during the game, we don't want to touch anybody, we don't want to hurt anybody. But you sit here and watch [practice], everybody getting in arguments, starting to yell at each other, but we've got to do that to the other opponents. We've got to go hit them in the face, you know, jump on their backs and stuff like that."Marshall (2-3) will try to reassert itself today when the Herd plays its second home game of the season against Nevada. Tipoff time at Cam Henderson Center is 7 p.m.This is one of those Rating Percentage Index-driving opponents - not Top 25, but the Wolf Pack finished 28-7 last season and went three rounds deep into the National Invitation Tournament.This season, Nevada is 3-1 with wins over Cal State-Fullerton (80-77), Wisconsin-Green Bay (71-69) and Southern Utah (79-61), and a 78-64 loss to Cal-Irvine. Six-foot-1 junior guard Deonte Burton leads the team in scoring with 15 points per game, followed by 6-5 senior guard Malik Story at 14. The Wolf Pack is struggling in field-goal percentage (.422) and rebounding (minus-21), but enjoys a 12-turnover advantage and shoots .742 from the foul line.Marshall turned its attention to Nevada after its Thanksgiving dinner, but spent much of the week working on what ails it. Rebounding was an obvious emphasis, ditto for defense without fouling. Herrion is alarmed at his team shooting 37 fewer free throws than opponents.And then when the Herd gets to the free-throw line, the .629 success isn't great. That's merely continuing a trend from last season, but it's an unwelcome trend nonetheless."I do know one thing, I've said it before: The more you start talking about it, it becomes even more mental," Herrion said. "I can put my head on the pillow at night knowing that we've invested a great deal of time."BRIEFLY: Big man Robert Goff's status for tonight is uncertain after a practice injury. ... Nevada leads the series 2-1, last beating Marshall 92-83 on Jan. 3, 1996 in Reno. Marshall's 86-84 win on Jan. 3, 1987 at the Henderson Center was memorable for Skip Henderson, who ruined coach Sonny Allen's homecoming with a tip-in at the buzzer. ... Nevada won the return bout 77-76 on Jan. 2, 1988.Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.