Spikes making difference for Herd
HUNTINGTON -- Nigel Spikes is a difference-maker for the Marshall University men's basketball team.
Spikes is a player who can dominate games without scoring a lot because he plays good defense and collects rebounds.
"He's playing with a lot of confidence right now," Marshall head coach Tom Herrion said.
Marshall (3-3) will anticipate Spikes doing his thing Wednesday when Morehead State (4-2) visits for a 7 p.m. game in Cam Henderson Center. The schools roughly one hour apart on I-64 haven't played since 2007, but are getting reacquainted in a four-game series.
Morehead State won at home Monday against Norfolk State, 73-67.
In a Saturday game against visiting Nevada, the Wolf Pack wanted to go inside and couldn't because the 6-foot-10, 240-pound Spikes was there and Marshall posted an 89-82 victory over last season's Western Athletic Conference regular season champion.
Spikes was right at his scoring average with seven points while also grabbing 14 rebounds and blocking two shots.
With his second double-figure rebound game of the season Spikes is tied for fifth in Conference USA with an 8.5 average.
"We practice post defense a lot every day in practice," Spikes said. "It kind of paid off the other night."
Defense and rebounding were the focus of practice leading into the Nevada game, Spikes said. A mid-week practice that was all defense resulted in players communicating with each other more and boxing out better underneath, he said.
Something had to change after close losses away from home against South Dakota State and Hofstra. South Dakota State nipped the Thundering Herd, 78-77, with two late 3-point field goals. Hofstra, a smaller team, beat Marshall in rebounds by plus-14 and won in double overtime, 103-100.
"It was an eye-opener for us," Spikes said.
Marshall's defense knocked Nevada out early, although the Wolf Pack came back after falling behind by 23. Marshall was also plus-7 in rebounds.
Herrion said the first half of defense could have been the best 20 minutes he's seen in three seasons.
And, Spikes was in the middle of it.
"It felt good to get back on the right page," the senior from Florida said. "We really crashed the boards."
Spikes needs to play big with teammates Rob Goff and Yous Mbao sidelined indefinitely because of head injuries, which leaves him in a rotation with Dennis Tinnon,, Elijah Pittman, Jamier Hanner and J.P. Kambola at the forward and center positions.
Playing defense without fouling is a necessity for the Herd big men. Spikes has fouled out of 10 games in his career, but none this season.
Notes: Herrion will speak to the Tip-Off Club at a noon, Tuesday, luncheon at Guyan Golf and Country Club. ... Marshall and Morehead State last met Dec. 1, 2007. Marshall officials were dusting off the Ellis Johnson Trophy after locating it Monday on a shelf in the old locker room in Cam Henderson Center now used by visiting teams. The traveling trophy is named after the late Ashland native who coached basketball at both schools and goes to the winner of the game. ... Monday was the 104th anniversary of the Herd's first game against the Eagles in 1908. ... They've played 93 times with Marshall leading the series 49-44.