HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - After Saturday's turnover-riddled setback at Louisiana Tech, one of the catch phrases in the Marshall camp is "be strong with the ball."
That's the mindset that escaped the Thundering Herd in a 99-78 loss to the Conference USA co-leading Bulldogs Saturday at Ruston, La. Marshall (7-14, 1-5) saw the glow dissipate from its first league victory, 73-63 two days earlier at Rice.
Facing a quick, veteran team in a nearly full arena, the Herd committed five turnovers in the first 1 minute, 58 seconds to fall behind 17-2. The turnover count swelled to 17 in the first half, 22 by game's end.
"We seemed like we were prepared, but we probably were a little rattled," said freshman forward Ryan Taylor. "The press, and the speed along with the press, if we beat it with the dribble they'd come from behind with the back check. That was really just it."
Almost - as Taylor added, "Louisiana Tech was just looking at our eyes, like reading the quarterback's eyes. They jumped in our pass lanes."
With that, the Herd has had several days to work on its response to full-court pressure. Its work will go on display, one way or another, at 7 p.m. Thursday against Florida International at Cam Henderson Center. Following that is a noon game Saturday against Florida Atlantic.
"So [we have practiced] a lot of pass fakes, passing over the top of the press and just being strong with the ball," Taylor said. "Listening to our teammates [warn] when they come from behind for back checks and stuff like that."
Herd coach Tom Herrion took note Tuesday of the unusual road trip, in which the team bused from Houston to Ruston. That's not unusual - Charlotte did the four-hour, 45-minute trip in reverse - but icy Houston roads extended that journey to six hours.
"Icy roads" and "Houston" don't go well in the same sentence. Still, Herrion didn't use that as an excuse, and was pleased with the overall effort. The destructive turnovers, not so much.
The analyst on the CBS Sports Network telecast wasn't as impressed, once remarking, "This team has more fight than I'm seeing right now."
"I don't know about that. We fought, but we dug a big hole," Herrion said. "We shot 58 percent in the first half; we got any shot we wanted when we handled the pressure. That's the disappointing part of it. We can't have 17 first-half turnovers; you just can't do that anywhere."
Herrion noted that the Herd rallied from that large deficit to make it 23-20 before slipping away again. Taylor also pointed to that.
"I think when we made our comeback run from 17-2, the effort was there. But then we [had] put all our effort into coming back," Taylor said. "We really didn't have a lot in the tank to overcome the lead in the second half. The effort, it's going to be there for us night in and night out, but we just dig ourselves big holes like that."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.