HUNTINGTON -- A few critical (and trend-bucking) factors in Marshall's 88-84 win Tuesday over former NCAA tournament at-large aspirant Southern Miss. The Thundering Herd won the last six minutes of the first half, 20-11.
This has been a painful time for this team, which has seen leads turn into deficits and close games turn into runaways. For instance, Houston outscored the Herd 14-4 last weekend, and Alabama-Birmingham pulled away with a 14-1 stretch eight days ago.
In Conference USA games, the Herd is 4-10-1 in the final six minutes, 3-9-1 when you throw out two irrelevant results (Herd was already down 47-7 at Southern Miss entering the last six minutes, and led East Carolina 31-9).Marshall's bench scored 37 points, a season high and a high in league play by far.
Sure, you can attribute part of that to D.D. Scarver not starting. He can bury a string of 3-pointers at any time and closes games with his foul shooting - he is 21 of 22 in the final minute.
But you remove Scarver's 19 points from that mix and you still have 18 - more than the number in 16 games.
The big story is the breakout of freshman Tamron Manning, who handles the point to get DeAndre Kane a "rest." Kane still played 38 minutes, but was able to work many of those without worrying about steal-happy Southern Miss point guard Neil Watson.
Manning scored a career-high 12 points, 10 in a 1:39 stretch of the first half. It was no coincidence the Herd outscored the Golden Eagles 11-1 in that stretch.
His defense is improving, and he was effective out front in a zone.
"Hey, it's hard for people to score on him one-on-one," said teammate Elijah Pittman. "We get in a zone and he's got his hands up, there's not really much you can do."Was that a 1-3-1 zone the Herd showed?
Yes, it was, as the team sort of morphed between a 2-3 and 1-3-1. And though Southern Miss still shot 51.9 percent, it was much less than the 63.2 percent the Eagles shot in the 102-46 rout at Hattiesburg.
Eventually, Dwayne Davis started hitting 3-pointers from the corners and the Herd had to adjust again.
"We never started a game in it, but we started knowing we couldn't match them man-to-man," said MU coach Tom Herrion. "We were too big. The lineup forced us to start in the zone, and it was very effective. I thought it caught them a little off guard."What's this? Marshall winning the free-throw battle?
Believe it, the Herd has shot a higher percentage than its opponent four times in the last five games. Tuesday, MU sank 24 of 31 (77.4 percent) to the Eagles' 17 of 30 (56.7 percent).
Before the current streak, the Herd outshot C-USA foes just once and everybody else six times. And the team is crawling up the NCAA chart, rising from 345th and last to ... well, 344th after Sunday's action. But the new 59.2 percent mark could sneak MU up to about 340th, where Texas Christian resides.
The Herd is not getting out of the C-USA basement in the category. It would have to hit 98 in a row to reach the 64.2 percent held by No. 11 Central Florida.nn
A strange trip ended Wednesday for Southern Miss coach Donnie Tyndall. Maybe.
A Marshall fan tweeted that he saw the Southern Miss bus make a pit stop to B&E Menswear in Huntington to get the coach an emergency pair of slacks. Seems he ripped an inseam along the way.
Then Tyndall witnessed his team lose to a Marshall team the Eagles had mauled by 56 in January - a development that apparently distressed him so much he passed on the postgame press conference.
And finally, Hattiesburg American reporter Tim Doherty tweeted that the team was "snowed in" Wednesday morning, probably by a flight cancellation.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.