HUNTINGTON — Facing its first conference road trip of the season after suffering a 25-point loss to Western Kentucky, there are no signs of panic in the Marshall basketball camp.
That’s not in coach Dan D’Antoni’s temperament.
With a journey to Charlotte and Old Dominion on the weekend docket, it’s all about development and preparation, as it was last week. D’Antoni was disappointed in the latter last week for the Western Kentucky game, and vowed to lead a better week.
“We weren’t sharp. We didn’t prepare as good as we should,” D’Antoni said. “There are multiple reasons for it, and I won’t go into it. Sickness is obviously one of them. There is a multitude of things — I’ve got to be better to handle a situation we’re in. And our players have to be tougher to get through situations that may not be favorable.”
The start of the WKU game last weekend, in which the Herd fell behind 10-1 before Ajdin Penava injured his ankle, was an example.
“Penava comes out and misses a dunk on an alley-oop, which he never does,” D’Antoni said. “C.J. missed two layups. Penava missed a wide-open 3, front end of a [two-shot foul]. Jon [Elmore] missed a 2-point jumper. The way we had been playing, at least four out of six go down, that’s eight points. We had one point, [so] that’s 10-9 when [Penava] goes out. And that’s not being as prepared as we should be.”
Video of the 112-87 loss to WKU was dissected on Monday, as D’Antoni arrived early in the basketball offices. Under many coaches, it can be the most dreadful time to be a college basketball player.
But not here.
“It’s real positive. He wants everybody to learn techniques, stuff like that,” said Elmore, the Herd’s point guard and leading scorer. “It’s all moving forward and making you better; it’s nothing personal. It’s team improvement, individual improvement instead of flat-out embarrassing you.”
Tuesday, the Herd turned its attention to Charlotte, whom the Herd will battle at 7 p.m. Thursday. The contest will stream live on ESPN3.
There will be more Charlotte video on Wednesday before the team hits the road. After Thursday’s game, Friday’s look back/look ahead will be more compressed with the game against ODU Saturday night in Norfolk, Virginia, also on ESPN3.
Like most things D’Antoni does at Marshall, he blends what he did in nearly three decades of high school coaching with what he observed in his time as an NBA assistant. And for fun, he throws in a wrinkle he picked up from brother Mike D’Antoni, currently the Houston Rockets’ coach.
“I’m still giving that pep talk before the ball game. Maybe I shouldn’t have last game,” D’Antoni said, jokingly as usual. “Before and during that, we just go back and show the last game’s highlights. So they get to see themselves, every shot that goes in, every block they made, every dunk that happens, and I put on about four minutes, three minutes. They just watch themselves be successful.
“And then we last have that last play — last one was [Rondale] Watson catching the alley oop. And then they’ll slow it down and they’ll see him come up and [dunking motion], BOOM! like that, and then everybody gets up and, ‘LET’S GO!’
“I got that one from Mike; that was one of the best things he did.”
The news on Penava took a turn for the positive this week. Not only did he not fracture the ankle he turned four minutes into the WKU game, the swelling on his sprain has gone down quickly.
He even did some shooting after practice Tuesday, with a light hop every so often.
D’Antoni’s low-end estimate of a two-week absence could prove prophetic. Then again, he might even return for the Charlotte-ODU trip.
“I expect him [back], probably not Thursday, though mayyyybe,” D’Antoni said. “Saturday’s a better possibility; [he] will be back [for certain] for the next two games right here at home.”
With those home games coming against Middle Tennessee and Alabama-Birmingham, that could be huge.
D’Antoni wants to give Phil Bledsoe, who did not play the last two games, another look. Bledsoe seems to be battling Dani Koljanin, who scored three points with two rebounds, a block and a steal in 11 minutes against WKU.
By the end of the month, crowd-pleaser Darius George should be back.
One final word on personnel: DePaul transfer Levi Cook could join practice Wednesday, but more likely it will be next week. His problem? The Raleigh County native had his DePaul transcript mailed to himself instead of directly to MU.
Tip for any transferring student: You can’t do that.