NCAA Basketball

College Basketball: Marshall vs. Louisville

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Marshall Thundering Herd @ Louisville Cardinals
KFC Yum! Center – Louisville, KY
Saturday November 27, 2010
Time: 1:07 pm EST
T.V.: WHAS (Ch. 11 in Louisville; Wazoo Sports statewide) Drew Deener, play-by-play; Bob Valvano, analyst.
Radio: WHAS 840 AM Paul Rogers, play-by-play; Doug Ormay, analyst.
Series History: Louisville leads 9-5
Officials: ???

Tom Herrion, who served as an assistant coach for the past three seasons at Pittsburgh, has brought the Pitt mentality of hardnosed, physical basketball to Marshall and Conference USA. Herrion’s style is in great contrast to the Thundering Herd’s previous coach, Donnie Jones. Under Jones the Herd led the league in scoring last year with his frantic pace of fast break hoops at 79.9 points per game.

Apart from the style of play change going from Jones to Herrion, the biggest difference from last year’s Marshall squad and this season’s: There is no Hassan Whiteside. The 7-footer became the program’s first-ever one-and-done NBA draft pick (33rd overall pick by the Sacramento Kings), and was the post presence and shot blocker Herrion would love to have, but doesn’t.

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Instead, the Herd will look in the back-court for the foundation of this team. DeAndre Kane, a sophomore was on the team last season, but as a partial qualifier was only allowed to practice and not play in games. Herrion actually tried to recruit Kane to Pittsburgh but lost out to Jones and Marshall. Kane is an explosive talent. He can shoot the ball, he’s got dishes and he is arguably the Herd’s best defender. Without argument he is their best scorer, leading the team with 13.8 points per game, and over the past three he’s been lights out shooting 57.5% (19-33) from the field.

His backcourt mate Shaquille Johnson leads the team in minutes played so far on the young season, and also came away from the Jackson State win with team highs in points (18) and steals (4). Johnson is

The bangers on the blocks for Herrion’s Thundering Herd are both 6′ 6″, 220 pounders: Senior Tirrell Baines and Junior Dago Pena. Baines is currently leading Marshall on the glass, pulling down 6.3 boards a contest. He is also tied with Kane for the team scoring lead and is shooting an astounding 71% from the field, having connected on 22-of-31 attempts this season.

Herrion also recruited Baines once upon a time. Prior to beginning his college career with the Herd, Baines committed to the College of Charleston, whose coach at the time was Herrion. Following a coaching change, Baines switched his committment to Marshall.

Pena, along with Tulsa’s Steven Idlet was named the Co-Conference USA Sixth Man of the Year last season. He finished fourth on the team in assists (52), tied for fifth on team in steals (22) with Tyler Wilkerson, and sixth on team in scoring (7.2). Pena wears jersey number 10, one that was given to him as a sophomore in 2008. Last year (2009) the Thundering Herd retired jersey number 10 (Just the seventh number to be retired in Marshall history) in honor of current New York Knicks’ coach Mike D’Antoni. D’Antoni played for the Herd from 1970 to 1973. In three seasons he led Marshall to a 59-21 record and invitations to both the NCAA and the NIT postseason tournaments. He still holds the Herd single-season assists record of 241 in 1971-72, averaging 8.9 per game. With Coach D’Antoni’s blessing, Pena will be able to wear No. 10 for the rest of his career.

The man in the middle for the Herd is 6′ 10″ Nigel Spikes. Kane, Johnson and Pena have all scored in double figures in each of Marshall’s first four contests.

Marshall has a couple key Johnny’s on the spot off their bench in 6′ 6″ redshirt junior Johnny Thomas (an NC State transfer who had 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting against Glenville State) and 6′ 2″ guard Johnny Higgins (who is seventh in C-USA with 4.5 assists per game). The Herd also have tremendous size off the bench, with three more 6′ 10″ centers who see action, redshirt sophomore Eladio Espinosa (USF transfer), Orlando Allen (a transfer from Oklahoma) and Aundra Williams. All in all Marshall features nine players listed at 6′ 6″ or above.

Both Thomas and Allen have already graduated and have two and one year remaining of eligibility, respectively.

Marshall’s defense has been stellar thus far, forcing 79 turnovers in their four games, good for an average of 19.75 per game. Given they haven’t played teams on the talent level of a Louisville, but good defense is good defense. Unfortunately for the Herd, it won’t be good enough.

Louisville 82, Marshall 68