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Chuck Landon: Big game by Spikes could alter season

Feb. 05, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Sometimes it takes only one game.

Sometimes that's enough to turn an athlete's career around. Sometimes that's enough to supply the confidence he lacked. Sometimes that's enough to change the course of his season.

Sometimes.

Whether that's the case with Marshall's Nigel Spikes remains to be seen. But the game he had in the Herd's 75-71 victory over UCF Saturday certainly qualifies as a break-through performance.

Not just because Spikes blocked nine shots and made a surprise appearance in double-figures with 11 points, either. It wasn't how many shots he swatted or points he scored or foul shots he made.

It was how Spikes did it.

The 6-foot-10 senior center played with more confidence than ever. As a result, he also played more aggressively on both ends of the floor than ever.

Why did this 46.5 percent foul shooter go 5-for-6 at the line? Confidence.

Why did Spikes more than double his career-high of four blocked shots? Aggressiveness.

Why did Spikes notch just his 10th double-figure scoring total in 112 career games? Confidence and aggressiveness.

Those two qualities make all the difference in Nigel Spikes.

And nobody realizes it more than DeAndre Kane.

"I've been telling him that," said Marshall's junior point guard. "I told him, 'You get the ball in practice and you score on everybody.' I said, 'That's all you have to do in a game, man. Just take practice and transfer it to the game.'

"And you saw it against UCF. He made a nice jump hook. He got the ball on a pick-and-roll, gathered himself and went up strong. He played big for us against UCF. Scoot (Spikes' nickname) was a big factor."

Spikes can be a big factor again when Marshall hits the road for games at Tulane (8 p.m. Wednesday) and at UAB (3 p.m. Saturday).

If Spikes plays with the confidence and aggressiveness he displayed against UCF, he can provide the inside presence that Marshall's donut of an offense has lacked all season. Spikes could allow the Herd to legitimately play inside-out.

It's just a matter of his confidence and aggressiveness.

"My confidence was high Saturday," said Spikes. "Those blocks really got me going. On the offensive end, the things I do in practice and the things I really work on. ... I don't really do them in games."

But he can. I've watched Spikes shoot nice jump hooks with either hand in several practices.

"I do it in practice all the time," admitted Spikes, "but I never do it in a game. But I did it against UCF."

Again, that's because of those two key aspects: confidence and aggressiveness.

"Watching film of UCF, I knew that I could get a lot of weak-side blocks," said Spikes. "But most of it was just me being aggressive and playing hard. ... just having the urge to want to win."

That urge Spikes mentioned is called the "tick-tock" factor.

"My college days are coming to an end," said the senior center, "so I'm playing desperately. I'm doing what I've got to do to get a win. I want to do things I haven't done over the past couple of years. I want to do it this year. That's always in the back of my mind."

With only nine regular-season games remaining, Spikes can be a difference-maker for MU down the stretch.

It's up to him.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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