HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The second overtime loss in a row cut into it Marshall's time to think about it by, say, 15 minutes or so.That's a small blessing. After games against Morehead State and Stephen F. Austin slipped through their fingers, Thundering Herd players need to dust themselves off and go play North Carolina-Wilmington. Today, nice and early, at Cam Henderson Center."We have no choice. We've got to turn it quick; we've got a 12 o'clock tipoff against Wilmington," said MU coach Tom Herrion. "There's no pity party, you know. No one's going to feel sorry for us. We've got to finish."Which the Herd hasn't done in the two overtime losses, and the reasons are many.
In the 102-94 loss at Morehead on Sunday, you can point to the 26 turnovers or the whopping 65 free throws the Herd allowed. In the 80-73 overtime loss Thursday to Stephen F. Austin, rebounding was a problem, and allowing Jacob Parker a career-high 31 points was an another.But the big problem in both games was simply free throw shooting. From the air-balled DeVince Boykins shot at the end of regulation at Morehead to the Herd's 8-of-24 abomination Thursday night, the disease that has affected so many Herd basketball teams has resurfaced.The .333 shooting percentage was MU's worst since a 4-of-18 (.222) outing Feb. 22, 2012 against Houston, in a game the Herd actually won 68-58. No such luck Thursday."I know they're not going up there trying to miss," Herrion said. "I do know that, as painful as it is for all of us, especially those kids."UNCW (3-3) is traveling from Western Kentucky, where the Seahawks lost 73-58 to the Hilltoppers Thursday. The Seahawks were coming off wins against College of Charleston (80-78, OT), Wingate (80-61) and Liberty (87-76).On the other hand, they started the season with two poundings, 82-39 at Iowa and 95-62 at Iowa State.In his fourth season at UNCW, Buzz Peterson is trying to finally right that ship. The Seahawks are coming off consecutive 20-loss seasons, and Peterson is 36-52 in the three-plus seasons.Cedrick Williams, a 6-foot-9 senior, leads the Seahawks with 14.7 points per game and 12 blocks and is averaging 6.2 rebounds. 6-4 junior Addison Spruill averages 12.5 points, 6-2 senior Tanner Milson has hit half of his 26 3-point attempts and 6-8 Shane Reybold leads with 7.2 rebounds per game.And beware: UNCW is topping the 70 percent mark in free throws, sitting at .704 to Marshall's .589.Elijah Pittman is averaging a team-high 28 points for the Herd, but he has slipped below 60 percent from the line. Kareem Canty is shooting better from the line and averaging 16.5 points, but his 32-19 assist-to-turnover ratio must improve. Ryan Taylor averages a team-high 6.5 rebounds to go with his 13-point average. Marshall's 3-point shooting percentage has dipped to .319 after a 7-of-23 outing Thursday, just another factor in the Herd's failure to put opponents away.
"We've got to stop giving the game away," Canty said. Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.