HUNTINGTON — Marshall University’s men’s basketball team won its first exhibition contest by 34 points over Glenville State College, but coach Dan D’Antoni came away with a laundry list of areas in which the Thundering Herd needs to improve as it moves forward.
After working on those aspects in practice on Thursday and Friday, D’Antoni is eager to see the improvement from games one to two as the Herd takes the floor against the University of Rio Grande at 1 p.m. Saturday at Cam Henderson Center.
“They all had their moments, but we’ve got a long way to go,” D’Antoni said with a smile. “This game gives us a chance to see ourselves against a bit more of a structured, standard game.”
One thing that D’Antoni was preaching to his team following the first exhibition was that everyone accepts his role within the team. It is an aspect that in previous years has been more defined due to bona fide leadership from Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks, but that process is a bit more fluid this year.
Add in an increase in talent level and it’s a transition that is crucial for the team to move forward successfully.
“This year, we have more players who think they can be a certain type of player that, in reality, there’s so much even talent, it may be that no one is in a prime scoring role,” D’Antoni said. “It may just be dependent on the situation. We have to make sure the team is rolling instead of just ‘the man’ is rolling. It’s going to be more divided and separated. One day a guy may get eight [points] and the next, 24.
“We have enough talent that we have to take what the defense gives us.”
Many times, a second exhibition game is used to allow younger players to gain experience while keeping veterans sharp before allowing them to rest. D’Antoni said that won’t be the case on Saturday because there are so many veterans getting acclimated to new roles.
“With these guys, you are trying to get them comfortable with what they are doing, too,” D’Antoni said. “We have newcomers but even our veterans are in new roles. It has to be about getting everyone comfortable in their role. It’s about seeing everything we’ve got across the board. We want to start out the season playing well.”
To start the season playing well, the Herd must improve on many aspects of the game. First and foremost on D’Antoni’s list was one that surprised him a bit — getting the ball inbounds on both ends of the floor. Whether in the half-court or full-court, D’Antoni said there was no consistency with the effort against Glenville State, which resulted in several turnovers.
“We’ve got to figure out who and how to get the ball inbounds,” D’Antoni said. “We’ve just got to figure out how to do it. We relied on Jon [Elmore] so much in that aspect that they looked a bit lost the other night.”
Other areas of improvement sought from D’Antoni included preventing offensive rebounding. The length of the new-look Herd led to several deflections, but Glenville State came away with 20 offensive rebounds as the Herd struggled to secure the ball.
D’Antoni added that the problem may take care of itself because Glenville State dedicated four players to attacking the offensive glass, an unconventional approach which led to many Marshall run-outs and odd-man situations once the Herd did secure rebounds.
“I don’t know that another team will commit that many resources to the offensive glass, but we still have to rebound well,” D’Antoni said.
One area where D’Antoni wanted to see improvement was 3-point shooting. Marshall has been known as a 3-point shooting team in past seasons and D’Antoni said that just because the team added length to the mix, that philosophy is not going to change.
The Herd finished 6 of 26 on 3-point attempts against Glenville with Cam Brooks-Harris supplying three of the made attempts. D’Antoni said part of the issue was timing of shots within the offense.
“We put up a couple — maybe six of them — too early,” D’Antoni said. “We had a couple that were hesitant and then a couple were too quick.”
While those are areas where D’Antoni wants to see improvement as the Herd takes on the Red Storm in its final exhibition tune-up, the Herd’s head coach lauded the play on the defensive end, especially within the 3-2 zone with which he was experimenting in the exhibition. In the second half, Marshall limited Glenville State to 26 percent shooting and a 9 percent clip from 3-point range.
“I think the 3-2 will do and we can even get bigger with it by using Mikel Beyers out on top or Jannson [Williams],” D’Antoni said. “We’ll see, but I think there’s times we can do that to change things up. Defensively, we looked pretty good. We’re long.”
As Marshall gets ready to take on Rio Grande, it will face a team with a few familiar faces.
In addition to the local ties with head coach Ken French, guards Gunner Short and Bobby Anderson are both locals. Short played at Fairland (Ohio) before transferring to Boyd County (Kentucky) — the same school that produced Anderson.
The game will also feature a pair of products from Newnan, Georgia, as Williams matches up with Rio Grande’s Joshua Anthony.