South Charleston graduate Pierria Henry will be close to home tonight when Charlotte takes on Marshall in Huntington.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - As the regular season comes to a close, the 16 teams of Conference USA will have something they haven't had all season: a league opponent they're playing for the second time.That's the way the one-year-only format works. With a 16-game schedule, every team played the other teams once, and one team a second time. That team was the designated "travel partner," the school paired to give visitors an easier Thursday-Saturday trip.With that, the Charlotte 49ers are paying a visit to Cam Henderson Center for the return bout tonight with Marshall. Tipoff is at 7 p.m., with the game airing on CBS Sports Network.This is the rematch of the Feb. 15 contest at Charlotte's Halton Arena, where the Thundering Herd (10-20, 4-11) won one of its few league games. It may have been Marshall's best, most resilient effort of the season, as the Herd was down 13 points in the first half before rallying to take a halftime lead.MU survived a rally by Charlotte (15-13, 6-9), which had a clear shot to tie it just before the buzzer with a 3-point try by Pierria' Henry. The shot just did rim out."We made a great run, played from ahead pretty much the whole second half, so there was a lot gained," said MU coach Tom Herrion. "Clearly, we recognized [tonight] is a whole new deal. The first time we double up with partners. It's unique, to say the least, at this time of year."Henry, the South Charleston High grad, scored 10 points on 2-of-7 shooting that night, but nearly pulled a triple-double - he had a career-high 10 assists and nine rebounds.
In his next three games, all 49er losses, he averaged 15 points but suffered 17 turnovers vs. 11 assists. He turned that around spectacularly in a 74-63 win Sunday against Old Dominion, tying that career high of 10 assists.But the six-game losing streak, two of which came before MU's visit, has seriously damaged the 49ers' season. They are tied for ninth place - the final spot for a first-day C-USA tournament bye - with North Texas.So Charlotte has a little extra to gain against a Marshall team that is just 8-7 at home."They snapped out of it Sunday," Herrion said. "They've got confidence, and they're going to want to gain some revenge, or whatever we call it. We're going to expect their best shot."We want to finish the season with another win in our building."BRIEFLY: The C-USA tournament brackets will be set after tonight's games. The league's format mirrors that of the Big East before its breakup, complete with a "double bye" for the top four teams. ... Starting times will not be set until the seedings are known, but this is: Host Texas-El Paso will play at 6 p.m. Mountain Time (8 p.m. Eastern) in the second round and quarterfinals. The brackets will be set from there.Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com.