CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Marshall faces a number of long, tough road journeys, so it's probably good to break in a newcomer-packed team with a short-but-tough trip.The Thundering Herd (2-0) hops on the bus today for the 72-mile trip to Morehead State, playing its first road game of the season. Tipoff time at Ellis T. Johnson Arena is 2 p.m.From a pure travel perspective, the Herd is easing into road play. But not much will come easy on the hardwood, and it shouldn't in a 94-game rivalry. It surely didn't last year in Huntington, as MU took a 70-67 win in what coach Tom Herrion called a "grinder."That may not be the correct description, as Morehead tried to maul the Herd on just about every possession. The result was 44 MU free throws, a number that could increase today in the new era of tight officiating.
However the whistles go, the Herd needs to be prepared for tight defense, complete with a fair amount of contact."They're 2-1, they've got a lot of new guys on the roster, excellent perimeter scorers," Herrion said. "They've got good size on the baseline, really an explosive team in transition. Really quick and fast. Usually, they're very physical and aggressive."Coach Sean Woods' team won at East Tennessee State (71-63) last week but suffered a 79-56 loss Friday at Xavier. Much like Herrion, Woods overhauled his team, perhaps even more so.Only three Eagles from the game last November are on the roster today - 6-foot-4 Bakari Turner, 6-11 center Chad Posthumus and 6-7 forward Jordan Purcell. Turner is the second-highest scorer at 10 points per game, Posthumus is averaging 9.7 and a team-high 9.3 rebounds and Purcell has not played.Angelo Warner, a 6-2 guard, is a returnee who did not play against MU, and he is the team's leading scorer with 15 points a game, and also leads in steals with 10.
The rest of the team is loaded with transfers from six different Division I schools, including two from Louisiana State and one from Nevada-Las Vegas. Several others are juco imports, including point guard Kareem Storey, who leads the team with 23 assists. The Eagles have two 6-10 centers, with Billy Reader (4.7 points, 4.3 rebounds) starting all three games. The other three-game starters are Warner and Mississippi Valley State transfer Brent Arrington (9.7 points), a 6-3 guard.Marshall, coming off a 119-77 win over Rio Grande, faces trips to East Tennessee State, Vanderbilt and Penn State in the near future, so this road baptism is important."We're a work in progress," Herrion said. "There were a lot of good things about the Rio game, including our team's focus. We've stepped up in weight class, playing a good Morehead club on the road. It's about the evolution of this team - we've got to get better, and this is the next opportunity."BrieflyHerrion officially unveiled his three-man recruiting class after signing Jay Johnson, a 6-7 native of Versailles, Ky., who played at John Logan College in Carterville, Ill.
"Jay brings great versatility to our frontcourt; he can play multiple positions along the baseline," Herrion said. "Jay will be very prepared once he arrives on campus in his transition to college basketball."
The other signees are 6-9 Shane Hall from Johnson Central (Ky.) High and 6-11 Henry Uwadiae from Charlotte, N.C., via Kirkwood Community College in Iowa.Marshall leads the all-time series with Morehead 50-44.For one season, MU will have the highest all-time win total (1,396) in Conference USA. But Western Kentucky (1,675) joins in 2014-15.Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.