CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Marshall's five-game exhibition basketball swing through Canada largely followed Tom Herrion's script, the fourth-year coach confirmed Wednesday.That blueprint: Acclimate newcomers to major-college-type opposition, allow those who sat out last season to rid themselves of rust, give all players a healthy dose of minutes and test them in a five-day grind.And win five games. If nothing else, that's what the Thundering Herd did, dusting off four college opponents and a club team."It's the middle of August, and there are so many areas we've got to get better at," Herrion said. "The foundations and our identity have formed in the practices and the trip, as far as how hard the kids played. We developed chemistry, bonding, didn't have a lot of distractions, not a lot of communication with people back home."
The Herd pelted Algoma College 99-54, survived a rally to defeat the University of Windsor 84-80, beat Western University of London, Ont., 81-68, smoked McMaster of Hamilton, Ont., 81-56 and downed A Game Hoops, a Toronto-based squad, 83-71.The McMaster game may have been the Herd's best performance. It was the first time that large school (enrollment 21,035) had hosted a U.S. team in 10 years, and the sweltering gym was half-full and charged up.But the Herd slaughtered the Marauders, holding them to 4 of 31 from 3-point range. MU assistant sports information director Steven Schoon told of McMaster coach Amos Connolly declaring embarrassment: "I don't think I've seen a game where the entire team didn't have a dunk. I didn't think that was possible."With the exception of recuperating Yous Mbao, the Herd's 10 players started two or three games each - even Austin Loop, the walk-on who went unused last season. Nobody played more than 26 minutes per game.Kareem Canty, the point guard sidelined by the NCAA just before last season, led with 18.8 points on 54.7 percent shooting, plus 28 assists. Ryan Taylor could have averaged a double-double and then some, but he rolled his ankle in the third game and was limited. As it was, he averaged 12.0 points and a team-high 8.2 rebounds.Elijah Pittman averaged 16.4 points and 7.4 rebounds. George Washington graduate and Ohio transfer TyQuane Goard averaged 10.4 points and 7.0 rebounds, and Shawn Smith had a team-high 12 steals."I thought he was really good," Herrion said of Goard. "He was shaking off the rust; he hasn't played much at the collegiate level, even at Ohio. He gives us a guy who can play several different positions - he played a small [center] at times, which he really isn't. He rebounded at a high level."Playing under international rules with a 24-second shot clock, the Herd was outscored overall in the third quarter before bouncing back. It shot 50.9 from the floor and 36.3 percent in judicious 3-point shooting (only 80 attempts).But the turnover count was too high for Herrion's liking (18.2) and the Herd clanked to the too-familiar tune of 53.5 percent at the foul line.Much to work on, but much to build on."Every guy had really good moments up there, and that's what really excited me about this group," Herrion said.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.