Herd takes long trek to UTEP
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If you have to make the haul to the opposite end of Conference USA's long footprint, it's good to have extra down time afterward.
Which is what Marshall has after its biannual trip to Texas-El Paso - a full week to recover from a single-game journey across two time zones. After its game against the Miners tonight at 9 Eastern, the Thundering Herd doesn't play for a week and doesn't have another road game for a week and a half.
That is a little better luck than the Herd had the last two times it went to the far western edge of Texas. Those two trips in 2011 came a week apart - first, for the next-to-last regular-season game and then for the Conference USA tournament.
This time around, March is a long way away and the schedule is much more favorable. Still, the Herd faces a UTEP team eager to bounce back from a tough 2011-12 campaign, and faces the Miners in a tough venue, the 12,000-seat Haskins Center.
Even in their 15-17 season of a year ago, the Miners were 11-5 in home games. This season, their home wins include Oregon and Nebraska, and their only home loss is to Nevada-Las Vegas, 62-60. And once again, they are second in C-USA in attendance behind Memphis, averaging 8,310 fans.
UTEP (7-6 overall, 1-0 C-USA) opened conference play Wednesday with a wire-to-wire 66-57 win at Tulane. Konner Tucker, a graduate transfer from Sam Houston State, led the way with 14 points, hitting four 3-pointers.
Julian Washburn, a 6-foot-7 sophomore swing man, leads in scoring average at 13.5 points per game, while 6-10 junior John Bohannon averages 11.1 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds. Bohannon is second in C-USA in field-goal percentage (.608), only behind Central Florida's Keith Clanton (.614).
The Miners might be even stronger in the backcourt with Tucker and senior point guard Jacques Streeter, who leads the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.91) and is fifth in assists (4.92).
Washburn is the team's iron man, leading C-USA in minutes played (36.62 per game). At second with 35.92 is none other than Marshall's DeAndre Kane, whose return to form helped propel the Herd (8-8, 1-0) to its 79-61 win over Tulsa in its league opener.
"It's a tough place to play, great environment, and they'll have a great crowd on a Saturday night," said MU coach Tom Herrion. "And they're older - they have two fifth-year guards and the other guys played last year and they've gained experience. They arguably played one of the tougher nonconference schedules in the nation."
Marshall hasn't beaten the Miners in four tries at the Haskins Center, but the Herd won impressively last year in Huntington, 76-60. Dennis Tinnon had 15 points and 10 rebounds as MU outrebounded UTEP 42-23 and held the Miners to 27.6 percent shooting after halftime.
The Herd will play without Yous Mbao, who did not make the trip. The 7-foot-2 native of Senegal has had reoccurring headaches since his return to action after missing 10 games with a serious concussion.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.