Herd falls at home
HUNTINGTON — SMU head coach Larry Brown said he didn’t know what a zone defense is. Brown said he doesn’t know how to coach a zone or play against one either.
But, SMU’s effective use of a half-court zone strategy helped the Mustangs dump the Marshall Thundering Herd men’s basketball team Wednesday night in Cam Henderson Center, 68-57, in front of 5,407 spectators.
Maybe that’s why Brown is in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
SMU’s zone — which protected the lane and resulted in Marshall firing too many 3-point shots — coupled with its ability to control the tempo led to the Mustangs beating the Herd for the first time in nine tries.
“The zone helped us tempo-wise,” Brown said. “It helped us on the board because they’re a tremendous rebounding team.
“We tried to use clock almost every possession, and at times I think they got a little impatient.”
It was a night for the underdogs in Conference USA with SMU (12-10, 2-5) notching its second league victory to catch Marshall (9-12, 2-4), Tulane and Houston in that column while UAB and Rice got their first wins.
Marshall head coach Tom Herrion lamented his team losing its identity.
“What frustrates me most is our lack of ability to understand who we are,” Herrion said. “We will not defend and rebound every night. That discourages me greatly.”
The Mustangs had one of their best offensive showings of the season with 48.1 percent field goal shooting and 3-for-6 accuracy on 3-point attempts. As expected, the best free throw shooting team in the conference made 15 of 21.
They also beat Marshall in rebounds by plus-six.
Forward Jalen Jones had 19 points and eight rebounds for SMU while guards Ryan Manuel and Nick Russell scored 17 and 15 respectively. SMU center Cannen Cunningham grabbed eight rebounds and Russell had seven.
When the Mustangs had the basketball they ran their weave until the 35-second shot clock reached about 10 before making their move.
“They make you guard into the shot clock,” Marshall guard Dre Kane said. “Once they put the ball up you have to get stops. We didn’t get stops.”
Marshall’s scoring was topped by D.D. Scarver and Elijah Pittman, both with 15, and Kane pitched in 13. Pittman needed 20 shots to get his points and was 2-for-11 on 3-point tries. Dennis Tinnon collected 17 rebounds and Pittman had eight.
The Herd had a poor shooting performance at 33.9 percent from the field while cranking up 3-point shots 28 times and making only seven. The worst foul shooting team in C-USA made just 10 of 23.
Tinnon’s 3-for-14 shooting was typical of the night.
“They played zone the whole time,” said Tinnon, who had a busted lip and a bump on his forehead from some of the banging he took. “They did a pretty good job of zoning. I couldn’t hit shots. They did a good job defending.”
Marshall scored the first five points of the contest on a Scarver 3-point shot and a steal and dunk by Pittman, but was overtaken by SMU at 13-11 on a Shawn Williams 3-pointer with 11:29 left in the first half.
Three consecutive Marshall turnovers — the Herd had only 11 in the game — were turned into SMU points and the Mustangs lead, 35-33, at halftime.
Manuel’s free throws gave SMU its biggest lead, 37-23, at 18:42 of the second half before Marshall got back within single digits.
Kane made a steal and drove for a layup that pulled Marshall back to 49-44 with 9:32 remaining. Tinnon put the Herd as close as five again, 51-46 with 8:41 left, when he rebounded his own miss and scored.
Five points was as close as it got.
“A terribly disappointing loss to say the least,” Herrion said.
MU TIP-OFF CLUB: Thursday meeting at noon in the Marshall Foundation Hall. Lunch is $12 for members, $15 for non-members.