CHARLESTON, W.VA. -- JEROD HAASE knows about shooting slumps, and not just because his Kansas/North Carolina teams tended to cause them.The former Roy Williams assistant was well pleased with his University of Alabama at Birmingham team after its 52-48 victory over Marshall. Defensively, anyway.I doubt he was surprised that his Blazers held the Thundering Herd under 30 percent shooting, but he didn't realize that included a string of 19 misses in a row, spanning 12-plus minutes.On press row, as the futility continued into the second half, we were counting along in near-unison. "There's fifteen! Sixteen! Seventeen!" we counted in one particularly painful possession.Haase could sympathize."I don't think that happens very often," he said. "I would like to take a little credit and our guys get a little credit, but part of it, too, is they miss some shots."Now I've been on the flip side of it, too, when we missed 43 straight 3s over consecutive games, which is an impressive stat - or a sad stat, is maybe a better way of saying it."UAB's game notes didn't point it out, but the Blazers pulled that stunt over parts of four games in January - the last six against Dayton, all 23 against Central Florida, all 13 against Memphis and the first toss against Southern Mississippi.The Blazers went 9 of 16 against Marshall in Birmingham, but just 4 of 18 Saturday in Huntington. But the home side was worse, a wretched 3 of 26.Those three makes came in consecutive shots by Elijah Pittman, who had missed his first six. That sparked a big rally, but Pittman helped kill it by forcing a 3-pointer with 24 seconds left.He has the team's best percentage from the beyond the arc (.365), owing to the streaky nature of D.D. Scarver (.333), but he shoots them too much. Saturday's game was the fourth time he has launched 10 or more, going 11 of 44 in those (an even .250). All came in conference games.
He's averaged upwards of seven attempts over 13 league games after jacking up barely four per nonconference game. Two factors at play - for one, he played more of a power forward into December and January, but has been moved outside since. Second, the Herd has seen a lot of zone defense.Still, this team shouldn't shoot 20 3-pointers in any game and Pittman shouldn't jack up 10. Looking at him, I think of Travis Aikens, a Ron Jirsa-era player who could have made a killing from 17 or 18 feet but perpetually bombed himself into mediocrity.Marshall's propensity to settle for 3-pointers is among several disappointments of this 12-16 season. In Saturday's game, I thought the Herd could take advantage of its height advantage for once, especially when it got 6-foot-10 Fahro Alihodzic in foul trouble."It made things a lot more difficult on us. In that zone, he does some great things," Haase said. "As you guys can look at our team, we don't have a lot of size, and he's one of the few guys who does have a little beef down there. I think having him out of the game with foul trouble, a lot of times, hurt us more on the defensive end ..."
But Marshall didn't take advantage. Nigel Spikes was effective until he missed four free throws down the stretch. Robert Goff was 1 of 6 and Dennis Tinnon 2 of 5. The Herd had 16 offensive rebounds, but there were 48 such opportunities - not a good ratio against a zone.Marshall was outscored in the paint (28-18) for the 15th time (5 wins, 10 losses) and fell to 6-11 when attempting more 3-pointers than the opponent.
One more thing: Of those 19 misses in that 12-minute skid, nine came from behind the arc. nn
The 2013-14 basketball version of Conference USA won't exactly be a threat to the "Power Six" leagues and probably won't be as deep as the current alignment. Still, I'm not worried about it.
The league loses one of five teams currently without a conference loss, Memphis, but will gain another. And beware of Louisiana Tech - the Bulldogs are plundering the Western Athletic Conference and won't lose much for their C-USA entrance.The Bulldogs (24-3, 14-0) are led by Raheem Appleby, the only double-figure scorer with 14.7 per game. The wiry sophomore guard has shot more than twice the shots of the No. 2 scorer, Cordarius Johnson (8.7), a 6-5 junior guard. Both will return, along with leading rebounder and shot-blocker Michale Kyser, a 6-9 sophomore.Tech will lose 13 percent of its points and 15.8 percent of its rebounds from two departing seniors. That's it.Another newcomer, Middle Tennessee State (25-4, 17-1) has won 14 in a row and lapped the Sun Belt's East Division field. Herd fans will remember the Blue Raiders as the well-rested team that ambushed MU in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament last season.The Blue Raiders need to make their splash this year it seems, because they'll lose a lot - they have 10 players averaging 10 or more minutes per game, but seven of them are seniors. The top returning player appears to be Shawn Jones (8.6 points, 5.5 rebounds), a 6-8 junior. North Carolina-Charlotte is 18-7 overall but 6-5 in the Atlantic 10, and is looking at an NIT bid. Back in the Sun Belt, Richard Pitino-coached Florida International is 10-8 in the league and 15-12 overall.The other four schools are a combined 18-47 in conference play. nn
Apparently, Conference USA's television partners don't research their subject matter very well.When Comcast Sports Southeast televised the Herd's home game against UCF, they had to be told the Knights were playing under an NCAA postseason ban, and were surprised that coach Donnie Jones might just be booed in Huntington.Fox Sports Net was no better this past weekend. During Saturday's Memphis-Southern Miss game, the crew went over the top teams and their tournament situation, graphics and all, and analyzed UCF's "chances" in depth.When UCF loses its NCAA appeal and serves its football bowl ban in 2013, somebody needs to alert the Big East's TV partners.Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.