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Chuck Landon: MU misses against even simple 2-3 zone defense

Jan. 17, 2014 @ 12:49 AM

The 2-3 zone defense has been around for, oh, about a century.

So, I'm pretty sure coaches have found successful ways to attack it during that lengthy span.

Otherwise, everybody would coach like Jim Boeheim and nobody ever would have heard of Bobby Knight.

Which leads us to what makes Marshall so inexplicable, so frustrating and so unbearable to watch this season.

The Herd acts like it has never faced a 2-3 zone defense.

Not ever.

Although MU coach Tom Herrion obviously knows how to attack that defense, his players consistently perform like they haven't got a clue.

Even Professor Plum in the library with a candlestick wouldn't help any.

That's why opponent after opponent after opponent have been throwing 2-3 zones at the Herd during a streak of losing 10 of 11 games against NCAA Division I competition.

It happened again Thursday night when North Texas zoned its way to an 80-65 win over Marshall before an announced crowd of 4,586 that looked suspiciously like the smallest crowd of the season in the Henderson Center.

"I thought we were really good in our 2-3," said North Texas coach Tony Benford. "On misses we went man and on makes we went zone. We were about 70 percent zone tonight.

"Maybe we should use it more."

Get in line.

It starts right behind Tulsa at noon Saturday.

Everybody and their brother's team is going to throw 2-3 zone defense at Marshall for the rest of the season until the Herd finally attacks it with some intelligence.

And that doesn't mean hurling 12 three-pointers at the rim from every conceivable angle and making only two during the first 13:50 of the game. That's why Marshall trailed 27-9 at the 9:05 mark and never dug itself out of that hole.

There are other ways to attack a 2-3 zone other than playing bombs away from the 3-point line. But that premise seems to be lost on the Herd.

So, Marshall bombs and bombs and bombs and loses and loses and loses.

The Herd never learns.

Marshall's players act as though they're trying to calculate the Pythagorean theorem when they face a 2-3 zone. They don't seem to grasp that the square of the high post is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two forwards.

Or something like that.

The point is it's well documented that throwing one 3-pointer after another at the rim against 2-3 zone defenses hasn't worked for Marshall. Yet, the Herd persists in doing it.

That's why MU was 3-for-15 on threes in the first half and 2-for-10 in the second half for a not so grand total of 5-for-25.

To make matters worse, the same mindless shooting of 3-pointers wasn't the only culprit.

Besides being out-hustled, out-efforted and out-played in the early going, there were careless turnovers, nonexistant defense and failure to finish around the rim.

So, it's easy to see why Marshall lost to a so-so North Texas team by 15 points on Thursday night.

And there are going to be a lot more defeats where that one came from if MU doesn't start attacking a zone with more sense.

"We're very tired of seeing 2-3 zones," said Marshall's Ryan Taylor.

He doesn't know the half of it.

Guess who invented the defense that is giving this Marshall team such fits?

Eli Camden Henderson.

The same guy whose name is on Marshall's arena.

That just makes it worse.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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