Chuck Landon: Four reasons why the Herd struggled to beat UNCW
It shouldn’t have been this tough.
It shouldn’t have taken clutch foul shots with 21 seconds left and a crucial defensive play with three seconds remaining by DeAndre Kane for Marshall to defeat a very so-so UNC Wilmington team, 61-58, Saturday at the Henderson Center.
It shouldn’t have been this difficult.
But it was.
The question is: why?
There were four reasons.
No. 1, the only West Virginian on either team was the game’s leading scorer with 26 points.
Isn’t that ironic?
UNCW redshirt freshman guard Craig Ponder, a Bluefield native, stunned Marshall by hitting 11 of 16 shots, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range.
“Yes, I was surprised he did as much as he did to us,” said Kane, who began the game guarding the left-handed Ponder. “He attacked us early.”
Even Seahawks coach Buzz Peterson was surprised, albeit pleasantly.
“I’ve seen it from Ponder in practice,” he said. “I’m glad he did it here. It will give him a lot of confidence.”
Marshall coach Tom Herrion was a bit more out-spoken about Ponder’s performance in his home state.
“When you come home” said Herrion, “you either play out of your mind or you stink. He played out of his mind.”
Smell the roses, Craig.
No. 2, Marshall’s offense is downright ugly.
“Nothing is coming easy to this group right now,” said Herrion. “And tonight was a perfect example. We’re just so stagnant on offense. We can’t finish anything. We have to address that.
“We know we’re not playing very well on offense right now. I admit that. I’ve got to do a better job of getting our guys in better positions, offensively.”
Herrion’s correct. Everyone has noticed. That includes Marshall’s players.
“We’re still not there offensively,” said Kane, who had team-highs of 16 points, five assists and four steals. “We’ve got a ways to go. We’ll get it together. There are a lot of new players.
“But we’ll get it together.”
No. 3, Marshall isn’t a very good passing team.
Either Kane gets the assist or just about nobody does. In Marshall’s last three games, Kane has 25 assists. The rest of the team combined? Only 13.
That’s another reason Marshall’s second-half play was so ugly against UNC-Wilmington. The Herd had only two assists in 20 minutes.
No. 4, MU’s guards are taking too many shots. Especially considering how poor their shooting percentages are.
In the last three games, shooting guard D.D. Scarver has made 11 of 35 field goal attempts, including 5 of 19 from 3-point range (.263), for a .314 shooting percentage. Kane is 13 of 52 from the floor, including a horrendous 1-for-13 on threes (.077), for an overall shooting percent of .250.
Collectively, Marshall’s two-man backcourt is 24 of 87 for only 27.6 percent.
Meanwhile, the frontcourt of Dennis Tinnon (.500), Elijah Pittman (.542) and Nigel Spikes (.769) is shooting a combined 56.3 percent from the floor.
Yet, Marshall’s two guards have taken 90 shots in the last three games compared to the three frontcourt players’ 73 field goal attempts.
Pittman, in particular, has to have more shots because he is the Herd’s most talented offensive player. Yet, he was only 4-for-5 against UNC-Wilmington.
Marshall’s offense needs more balance and less perimeter shooting.
Yet, Marshall still has managed to win.
“Bad wins are better than a good loss,” philosophized Herrion.
But it’s a tight rope without a net.
Marshall’s going to stumble and fall if the offense doesn’t improve.
Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.