November 9, 2014
The Marshall University men’s basketball team defeated Concord University 92-80 Saturday in the Cam Henderson Center this past Saturday. The exhibition match was hotly contested at halftime, with the Mountain Lions ahead 44-38, but a 25-14 run eight minutes into the second half revamped the Herd’s focus and galvanized a tougher man-to-man defense in order to sustain the lead from there on out.
Spearheading the run was junior forward Jay Johnson, who finished the game with 19 points and 5/9 shooting behind the arc.
“We knew coming in at halftime that Marshall would make a run, because of the way Coach [Dan] D’Antoni is going to play,” said Concord head coach Kent McBride. “They were going to shoot the basketball. We knew they would make a run and we just didn’t stop it fast enough. I think they hit four or five three’s in a row and I don’t think we converted maybe one of those possessions. That’s the difference.”
Herd player’s admitted to having first game jitters, and that probably being the reason behind a halftime deficit to a Division II school.
“A lot of excitement,” said redshirt sophomore forward Ryan Taylor. “Just from us within as a team. The coaches were excited and it just being the first game, we were trying to impress the fans. Maybe we tried to do too much, kind of like Cleveland (Cavaliers) and how they were the opening night, but I think we got the jitters out in the second half and we played well.”
In the first half, a fidgety Marshall team, succumbing to its nervousness, wasn’t the only reason Concord took a first half lead. Concord was the much smaller team, but utilized its speed very well. The team out of Athens, West Virginia, would place the guards on the perimeter with two post men on the low block. The forwards down low had one objective: to garner as many put back points as possible, while the guards set picks for each other in order to drive into the lane for mid-range jumpers or to attack the basket.
The second-half success of that strategy wasn’t nearly as successful as it was in the first.
“They did a really good job putting [Justin] Edmonds up on our ball handlers,” McBride said. “When they want to play fast, they continually really wore our guys down. We turned the ball over carelessly. Whether it was fatigue, or whatever it was playing at this level, that took a lot out of play. We couldn’t get in rhythm at half-court and all of sudden when you get pressured in the back-court, we started dribbling instead of passing.”
Marshall’s usage of 11 players, full and half-court traps, coast-to-coast drives and kick outs for corner three-pointers won the game for the Herd. Marshall continues to instill the fast paced, quick firing offense in the regular season, but look for them to be more situational during the regular season.
When asked if we would continue to see 11 men play, Marshall head coach D’Antoni said we would not.
“I wanted to film where I could see everybody,” D’Antoni said. “I wanted to play Milan a little more than I did. I thought he looked pretty good for the little bit of time he was in there and we would’ve liked to have given him a little bit more time.”
D’Antoni greatly stressed that both he and his player’s will be going through a lengthy development process.
“I’m getting new to this, too,” D’Antoni said. “We scored 90 points and somebody got tired on the floor. I don’t understand that because I never got tired. I think it was excitement. In the first half everyone was excited and they got winded really fast — everybody I put in got winded. In the second half, they settled down more and extended their play a little bit.
“We’ve been practicing. I think we’re in good shape. Again, it was excitement that winded them. I think we’ll learn a lot. It’ll be a good learning experience. It’s going to be all year long, a work in progress. I’m brand new, we have a brand new system, we have all brand new players really because players that did the really heavy play last year are not here. It’s going to be a continual work in progress until we figure out the chemistry, the element of the game. And to quote Lebron, ‘It’s always a work in progress.’”
Marshall’s next game will be against Jacksonville State at 7 p.m. Friday Nov. 14 at the Cam Henderson Center.