November 19, 2014
The Marshall University Thundering Herd men’s basketball team ended its three game stint against Division II schools Tuesday, walloping the Golden Bears of West Virginia University Insititute of Technology 87-65.
Marshall shot 13-30 from behind the arc and was also 20-25 from the free throw line.
Leading the Herd in scoring was sophomore forward Ryan Taylor with 25 points, who also muscled in eight rebounds. Another major contributor to the 22-point victory was the Senegalese senior center Cheikh Sane, who garnered 16 rebounds and was one point shy of a double-double. Sophomore Austin Loop shot 4-6 from three-point range and ended the game with 14 points.
Defensively, the Herd played a box zone, negating any penetration from the Golden Bear guards and forcing cross-court passes when the ball was on the perimeter. Although WV Tech put two post players in the low block, there was heavy reliance on perimeter movement. With the box zone, Tech could move freely on the first pass, but maneuvering into the inside lane was nearly impossible because of Marshall’s two–man close out. WV Tech kept it close when down 8-10 six minutes in, but Marshall’s defense forced 14 turnovers in the remaining 14 minutes of the first half and outscored the Golden Bears 38-19 to take a 48-27 halftime lead.
“We don’t play in front of 5,000 people every night,” said WV Tech head coach Bob Williams. “In an arena like this, when you play an NCAA Division I team, maybe we were a little nervous at the beginning of the game. They were excited, but I don’t think intimidated.”
In the second half, Marshall continued to play within its box defense and established its brand new system like it has the past two games. The main difference in Tuesday’s offensive scheme was instead of leaving the corner shooter in his place or switching corners, he would be brought up to the wing next to the primary ball handler. This way, the former corner shooters defender, as well as the ball handler’s defender, would focus on the backwards movement and surrender drives into the paint.
However, West Virginia Tech didn’t go home quietly.
Formerly engaging with a man-to-man defense, WV Tech applied the 2-3 zone at the 11 minute mark. The 2-3 zone allowed WV Tech to slow the pace of the game, then use its speed to take the lane after Marshall’s missed shots and turnovers.
“I was proud of our guys; how we came out in the second half and fought,” Williams said. “We cut the lead to 11. We switched to a zone defense that we basically put in yesterday, just in case we would need it, so I was kind of reluctant to go to it, but it slowed the game. I saw Savannah State do it and it slowed Marshall down just enough where we could creep back in striking distance.”
During the run, that cut the lead to 11. With a score of 67-56 with less than six minutes to play, Marshall was letting players that normally sit the bench amass some playing time.
When asked about the team’s performance against the 2-3, Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni said the players did not perform as well as expected.
“Well, we got all the shots we wanted, we just missed them,” D’Antoni said. “We had shots where the players we had taking them, could make them. That’s what they’ve done in practice. They made those shots. One was brand new to the game, and it was his first chance and he had been sitting there a while.”
D’Antoni subbed back in starter Ryan Taylor, who foreshadowed a victory with vital buckets in the remaining minutes and prompted a 20-9 team run to win the game. Taylor’s offense was substantially responsible for the third victory, but he credits his team’s defense as the catalyst for the win.
“Our defense, defensive pressure, half-court and full-court sped them up a little bit,” Taylor said. “That went to offense, and we were able to make open shots—free throws, too.”
“Obviously, there were some really good parts and there were some parts that were not so good,” D’Antoni said. “I thought we shot the ball well, and there were some parts that really looked good. That’s a well-coached team (WV Tech) and small, but their big guy inside is not small and he’s aggressive. They’re a threat because they can shoot and they’re quick. They’re well-coached, and they play hard.”
The Herd’s fourth game could be its toughest test of the season. University of Louisville, the 2013 NCAA Division I champion’s and No. 8 ranked team in the nation, await it Friday in Louisville, Kentucky.