Marshall's Nigel Spikes (11) snags a rebound over Morehead State's Kahlil Owens during the Herd's 70-67 victory Wednesday.
HUNTINGTON - When the outside shots weren't falling for Marshall in its win Wednesday night over Morehead State, that's when Nigel Spikes, all 6-foot-10 of him, stood tall.
Spikes was one of the Thundering Herd's leaders in the 70-67 victory, scoring a career-high-tying 13 points with nine rebounds, six on the offensive end. He also had an assist and blocked a shot before fouling out.
Not spectacular but solid, and that's what coach Tom Herrion's Herd needs out of the senior from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., especially with starting big man Robert Goff out with an injury. Yous Mbao, the 7-foot-2 reserve, is out indefinitely.
Spikes scored half of his four field goals in the first 3:25, with both baskets fed by DeAndre Kane. Later, as the Herd battled back from a seven-point deficit, Spikes tapped in a Kane miss.
In a half in which the Herd shot 26.5 percent and hit just one outside shot against the overaggressive Eagles, every basket was precious.
"We thought we could go inside a little bit more," Herrion said. "They took us out of a little bit of our ball-screen offense early on with some of the traps so we had to post a little bit more early. We wanted to play inside out, which I thought we did a better job of.
"Went to Spikes early - a healthy Nigel Spikes, as we've talked about. I think we are reaping some of those benefits."
Herrion refers to Spikes' knee injury, which slowed him all last season. Limited to 16.1 minutes per game, Spikes averaged just 4.1 points and 4.8 rebounds.
After seven games, all of which he has started, his averages are up to 7.6 points and 8.6 rebounds in 25.0 minutes per game. He relinquished the team lead in rebounds to Dennis Tinnon (9.0), but still has a 23-21 edge on the offensive glass.
Spikes was strongest in the second half against Morehead, which adjusted somewhat after Tinnon's 11 first-half boards. Tinnon still finished with 16, while Spikes had six after halftime to give him his nine.
"It's safe to say he rebounds better than me," Spikes said of Tinnon. "When they double him, I can just get the loose ball."
Amazingly, Spikes didn't score a field goal off his four offensive boards in the second half. His only basket came on a short hook shot in transition, but he did get himself to the line for eight free throws, making five.
In doing that he caused Morehead more headaches as the game went on. In one sequence, Spikes got the offensive rebound on a Kane missed free throw and pitched it out front to set up the offense again. He then rebounded a missed Kane layup, rebounded his own miss and got fouled. He made both free throws to five MU a 44-40 lead.
"Everyone says making plays is making a shot. Making plays is offensive rebounds, stick-back, foul," Herrion said. "Do you know how much that breaks a team's back? You shoot, you go get one, you go get two, and then they foul you on the third shot. They're climbing a mountain.
"Some grown men in there tonight, boys."
Spikes being one.
Strangely enough, Marshall was outscored by Morehead 13-12 in second-chance points. The Eagles had 21 offensive rebounds of their own, just short of the Herd's 24.
Scanning a few scoresheets, you learn that a half-point per offensive board is a low ratio.
"I'll take 24 offensive rebounds, and you could tell me that we only had 12 second-chance points, but I'll go home tonight sleeping pretty good if we get 24 offensive rebounds," Herrion said. "We will get more second-chance points through the rest of the year."
The Kane watch: In the last two games, MU's leading scorer is 8 for 34 from the floor, 0 for 8 from 3-point range and 6 for 23 from the line. On the bright side, he has 22 points, 19 assists, 12 rebounds and just six turnovers in that span.
After the game Kane shook his head at the stat sheet, then regained his confidence.
"I'm going to make my free throws," he said. "I've been missing them; now I'll make them."
With the lopsided foul totals, Marshall outscored Morehead 28-8 from the line. Under Herrion, Marshall is 38-5 when making more free throws than its opponent. That also means MU has outscored its foes from the foul line 43 times in Herrion's 76 games, in which he is 47-29.
Herrion won his 30th home game in two-plus seasons, versus nine losses.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.