Chuck Landon: Martin can help Herd deal with WVU heat
Somebody will step up.
Somebody always does.
Whether it is Marshall's DeAndre Kane or WVU's Juwan Staten, somebody will step up and become the key player when the Herd plays the Mountaineers at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, in the Capital Classic at the Charleston Civic Center.
But does it have to be a star player? Does it have to be a leading scorer? Does it even have to be a starter?
Meet Chris Martin.
If Marshall is going to handle the intense pressure WVU's guards put on opposing ball-handlers, the Herd's backup point guard will have to step up.
Martin needs to be a key player tonight.
"Chris has got to be solid," said Marshall coach Tom Herrion. "He's got to take some pressure off Kane. We've got to be able to slide Kane to the wing and take him off the ball some. That's when we need Chris to run the offense.
"We need him to step up in this game."
That's because WVU's offense is based on its defense.
"Defensively, they're a juggernaut," said Herrion. "With their man-to-man pressure, they can take you out of a lot of things."
So, just how much on-ball pressure do the Mountaineers employ?
"A ton," said Herrion emphatically. "They want to turn you over and open the floor. Their defense creates offense. It's a very big component for them."
That means WVU's rotation of Staten (29.4 minutes per game), Gary Browne (21.4 minutes) and Jabarie Hinds (22.2 minutes) will come after Kane from the opening tip.
"I'll just play my game," said Kane, who has become Marshall's de facto point guard. "I'm going to pass the ball. I'm not going to try to beat a double-team or something like that. But if I see an open lane and they're pressuring me, I will try to go past them and make a play.
"I think they've seen enough games that they know I'm not going to get stripped or just turn the ball over like that."
Kane's statistics prove his point. The junior guard is averaging only 2.9 turnovers in 38.2 minutes per game. His assist to turnover ratio is nearly 3 to 1.
In fact, Kane has more assists (67) by himself than WVU's entire team (64).
But Kane also is the Herd's leading scorer at 16.0 points per game and the Mountaineers don't have a matchup for him. That's why Marshall needs to be able to slide him to the wing and let Martin play the point for meaningful minutes.
"I do tell coach that sometimes I want to be off the ball," said Kane. "That's my natural position. I just want to get out and run and get in transition in the open court. That's where I'm best. ... the open court.
"It would take a little pressure off me to get Chris at the point."
That's why the 6-foot sophomore needs to step up tonight.
"This will be a true test," said Martin. "I look forward to that. They are going to come after me. They're going to put pressure on me. They're going to put pressure on everybody. That's how they play. That's what they do.
"I know what I have to do. I just have to go out there and do it."
Martin doesn't need to be flashy, dealing showtime assists or hitting big 3-pointers. He just needs to be solid, taking care of the ball and running the offense.
If he does that, Chris Martin will be a key player.
Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.