HUNTINGTON - In a holiday season in which the Marshall basketball team has been mired in ugly games, the Thundering Herd finally reached back and inflicted a larger dose of ugliness, at Savannah State's expense.The Herd overcame an early eight-point deficit, 19 turnovers and another night of rough shooting to pull away from the Tigers 64-48. A crowd announced at 5,316 watched at Cam Henderson Center, as Marshall forced 16 turnovers held the visitors to 33.3 percent shooting and blanked them from the 3-point line.Home fans groaned early, even emitting a boo or two, but coach Tom Herrion liked a lot of what he saw when his team didn't have the ball."That was as consistent of 40 minutes of defense that we've played all season, in my opinion, two halves," Herrion said. "We did a good job bottling them up, would have like to have stretched that rebound margin out a little bit [41-38]; we've got to continue to address that."Good win for our kids coming out of exams. They've had a great attitude, so I'm happy for them."Marshall (7-5) hounded the Tigers with 1-2-2 and 2-2-1 variations of the press, aiming for turnovers, or at least to take away time in the halfcourt offense. That became easier to do when the Herd made more shots in the second half, 9 of 19 from the floor.D.D. Scarver led the scoring with 18 points, hitting three 3-point goals in six tries. As is increasingly the case, his 3-pointers come at critical times and seem to turn momentum the Herd's way more forcefully.Take the first half, for instance.The Herd fell behind 14-6, starting the game 3 for 11 with four turnovers. It took to the halfway mark to tie the game at 16, and the game was knotted again at 18 with 8:04 to go.
Nigel Spikes made the first of two free throws, but missed the second. Dennis Tinnon fought for the rebound, tossed it out to Scarver, who fired it in from the arc.The Tigers misfired on their next possession and Tinnon snagged another rebound and started the fast break. Scarver hit the brakes at the 3-point line, took the pass from Tinnon and canned it. All of a sudden, the Herd was up 25-18.Scarver's last 3-pointer came toward the end of an 11-1 run, a six-minute stretch that could have been more devastating had the Herd not missed five free throws. Like his first one, it came off an offensive rebound of a missed free throw, this time by Spikes. Scarver faked once, slid along the arc and fired to give MU a 52-40 lead with 3:03 left."That's where the floor opened up - it was either off misses or against [Savannah's] pressure," Herrion said. "We made two great kickouts to him. We want him to shoot open shots."He's a deadly catch-and-shoot guy. When he puts it on the floor, I close my eyes, I cringe sometimes. He's into the Curly Neal thing, the Harlem Globetrotters, whirly-dirly dribble craze. But when he catches and his feet are set, he's as good as any in the country, in my opinion."
Savannah State, now 5-7 against a rough schedule, got no closer.
The Tigers had 63 shots to Marshall's 48 but only hit 21. They only got to the free-throw line 10 times, making six, and bricked all seven of their 3-point attempts.Rashad Hassan led the Tigers with 11 points and eight rebounds, but he and Preston Blackman combined to go just 9 of 30 from the floor."I've got two fifth-year seniors that played like freshmen," said coach Horace Broadnax, referring to Hassan and Blackman.Marshall's next game is no small matter - it's at Kentucky's Rupp Arena, at 4 p.m. Saturday.nn
Herrion kept his jacket on the full 40 minutes, which almost never happens. Usually, it's gone before the first media timeout and fans even take guesses on time of discarding.
But Herrion had a purpose Wednesday night. As a New England native and a father of a first-grader, the shootings in Newtown, Conn., hit him hard. His jacket was green, the official color of Sandy Hook Elementary School."It's on [Interstate] 84," Herrion said after a long pause to gather himself. "And I'd say, easily, 200-300 times I've driven through that town, that area, recruiting when I was a young coach in New England. With a 6-year-old son who will turn 7 right after Christmas, who's in the first grade . . ."He paused again."Let's think about it this way: Those kids, boys and girls, were the same age as the kids that come to my camp. So it was my way of paying tribute, green is their color of their school. It's just a small way for me to pay homage to senseless, ridiculous, despicable slaughtering of all the people last Friday."nn
BRIEFLY: Kelvin Amayo will join the team today upon posting of his grades, which may or may not come in time for the Herd's practice. . . . Marshall's bench scored 15 points, and all four reserves played at least 11 minutes. Tamron Manning made his first career start at point guard, but Chris Martin played 25 minutes. . . . Marshall had 15 assists in its 20 baskets, from seven different people.Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.