HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The statistics, laid out side by side, don't look great. The Marshall men's basketball team is fourth among 16 Conference USA teams in 3-point shots taken. It's 15th in 3-point percentage.Yet Thundering Herd coach Tom Herrion said those numbers alone shouldn't lead one to believe that Marshall relies too much on the 3."We've got much more balance in our shot selection and our shot distribution," he said. "We're not a consistent 3-point shooting team, so we can't rely on it too much. We've got guys who can make them. I don't think we're over-relying on them."Herrion considers his team's shot selection to be improving, but not optimal, and something the Herd can improve on going into Thursday's final road game of the season at 7 p.m. at Old Dominion.
While Marshall (9-19, 3-10 C-USA) takes a lot of 3s - an average of 19.9 per game - it also makes more than most teams in the conference. The Herd's 6.11 made 3s per game is sixth among C-USA's 16. That averages out to a 30.7-percent success rate. It also happens that Marshall's scoring strengths come from slashers and jump-shooters like freshmen Kareem Canty and Ryan Taylor and sophomore Chris Thomas, rather than from traditional back-to-the-basket post players."We don't have that dominant low-post scorer," Herrion said, "so it's a delicate balance."It's also something that isn't new with Herrion-coached Herd teams. Last season's Marshall squad averaged 20.2 3-point attempts, made 6.19 per game and shot 30.7 percent from 3, which was last in the then-12-team conference. Two seasons ago, when Marshall made the NIT, it was next to last in 3-point percentage (31.3 percent) and averaged 18.5 attempts and 5.8 makes a game.Herrion said there are other factors that go into what makes a good 3-point attempt - when it's shot, whether it's open or contested, and whether the team has worked to find the best shot. Passing on a good shot because its farther away won't work, he said.
"We have to have guys take open shots," Herrion said. "You can't not shoot. Shots start to show ... I think its more important to grade whether it's a good shot or a bad shot. That does go in concert with what type of shooter you are, but our shot selection has improved immensely over the last couple of weeks."Both Herrion and the players figure it could get even better. Sophomore guard Tamron Manning said it must, especially considering how many teams have used zone defense against the Herd, forcing their shots to come from deeper on the court.Finding the right 3-pointers and hitting them should help bust those zones and give Marshall more room to drive to the basket, he said."That's how I've always come up, that if someone plays you in zone, you shoot your way out of the zone," Manning said. "We've just got to be confident, step into shots and knock them down."Taylor still sees possessions where players hoist 3s too quickly, or shoot them with a defender in their faces. Patience and effective ball movement would make those bad shots better."Sometimes I think we settle with a first shot or its the first pass in the possession and an open shot, let me take it," Taylor said. "When we make the ball move and we have good shots, I think it's a good shot for us. A lot of our team can hit the shot."Patience isn't always there for a young roster that sometimes looks for the home-run 3-pointer to kill a rally or take a lead. For the Herd to estabilish any momentum heading into its final three regular-season games, Taylor said that patience needs to develop.
"I think we're young and we're growing through it," he said. "We're understanding that every possession counts. If they don't, it's going to hurt you in the long run."Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.