Marshall's next two opponents played each other twice in a four-day stretch over six time zones, and the results were eye-popping.First, South Carolina and Akron dueled for third place Christmas Day in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, and the Gamecocks outscored the Zips 44-28 in the second half.On Saturday, the teams got together in a regularly scheduled game on Columbia, S.C., and the Gamecocks played even better in the second half. After runs of 17-1 and 11-0, the Zips went home a 78-45 loser.Marshall (5-7) plays Akron on Thursday to ring in 2014. But today, the Thundering Herd must deal with the suddenly warm Gamecocks (5-6), 7 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena."We're getting them when they're playing their best basketball," said MU coach Tom Herrion." They were 2-1 in Hawaii, beat St. Mary's."Several numbers stood out in the most recent game, but one may have loomed large over the others — Brenton Williams' six 3-point goals in nine attempts. That corresponds with Marshall's biggest faux pas in its last game, an 83-82 home loss to Arkansas State. The RedWolves sank five 3-pointers in the first 51/2 minutes to take a 19-5 lead.For all of the Gamecocks' 3-point shooting in their last outing, that doesn't appear to be their strength. They hold a plus-3.6 advantage in rebounding, and are plus-26 on the offensive glass.
You may want to consider the team's second-year coach in that department."They're a very, very physical club, as you would expect with a Frank Martin team," Herrion said. "I've known Frank for a long time. His teams are tough, disciplined."A 5-foot-11 senior, Williams' 24-point game against Akron gives him a 9.8 average, behind 6-3 junior guard Tyrone Johnson (10.6) and 6-5 freshman guard Sindarius Thornton (11.7). Mindaugas Kacinas is the leading rebounder at 5.6 per game, and Johnson averages 4.0 assists.The Herd has some injury concerns, as big man Cheikh Sane (foot) is questionable and Tamron Manning (groin) is doubtful.This is Marshall's first game in nine days, since the team broke for the holidays after the Arkansas State game."We had a handful of guys who didn't go home," Herrion said. "This team is still eager and hungry for consistency and success."Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org
orfollowing him at twitter.com/dougsmock.