CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The schedule, the standings and recent history suggest that Marshall needs to beat Rice tonight it its latest Conference USA battle.It's simple: The Thundering Herd (6-13 overall, 0-4 C-USA) and Owls (5-12, 0-4) are two of the three winless teams in the 16-team league (East Carolina is the other at 0-3). The Herd will have to turn around Saturday and take on contender Louisiana Tech.For a team that hasn't won away from home in 11 solid months, nothing is automatic. Certainly not the game at 8 tonight against the Owls at Tudor Fieldhouse in Houston.Once again, the frightening numbers: Marshall has lost 11 of its last 12 games against Division I opponents, including its meltdowns last week against North Texas and Tulsa. And yes, the Thundering Herd has booted 13 consecutive games away from Huntington, dating back to a win last February against Central Florida.
So what can the Herd expect against the Owls, coached by the venerable Ben Braun? Another struggling team - seven straight losses, five of them by double digits. The Owls lost last week against Southern Mississippi 84-62, to Tulane 58-41, and are a combined 1-19 in C-USA games this season and last.Marshall has commanded this series, 7-2, though the Herd was fortunate to win 71-70 last season in Huntington. The largest lead by either team was five points, with DeAndre Kane's three-point play with 34 seconds left providing the key points.
The Herd is a perfect 3-0 in Houston, a trend MU needs to continue. Rice entered last year's game at Marshall on a seven-game losing streak.Rice is about as young as Marshall but does have some veterans. That starts with Austin Remljak, a 6-foot-3 Californian who is averaging 12.6 points. Five-9 sophomore Max Guercy averages 9.9 points and 3.6 assists; other notables are 6-1 sophomore Keith Washington (8.5 points) and 6-7 Seth Gearhart (6.9 points).Sean Obi is the team's newest force. The 6-9 Nigerian averages 11.2 points and 9.2 rebounds, and he has six double-doubles. Beyond that, the Owls have seven freshmen.Marshall suffered an 80-65 loss to North Texas a week ago, followed by a 69-52 loss to Tulsa. That was a tale of two quick slides - early against the Mean Green, late in the game against the Golden Hurricane.Should the Herd not win tonight, Louisiana Tech will afford little mercy in the 8 p.m. game Saturday at Ruston, La. The Bulldogs (15-4 overall) lost Sunday at Southern Mississippi but still carry a 3-1 record into the Thursday-Saturday weekend.BRIEFLY: Braun is in his sixth season at Rice, with a 61-117 record. The ex-California coach's overall mark in 36 seasons is 613-506. ... Marshall coach Tom Herrion is 26-28 in regular-season C-USA games, 7-19 away. ... The 70-point mark is a magic number in this era for the Herd, which is 17-37 when scoring below that level, 45-20 at 70 points or above.Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.