Chuck Landon: Herd clutch in every way but performance
Talk about a clutch performance.
Then, let's talk about Marshall's 69-63 win over Coppin State Saturday night before 5,152 perplexed fans in the Henderson Center.
How often did Marshall clutch?
Let's count the ways.
The Herd clutched at straws. It clutched at lineups. It clutched at rotations. It clutched at who to play at point guard. It clutched at strategies. It clutched at errant passes. It clutched at bad 3-point shots as they exploded off the backboard. It clutched at identities.
Why, even coach Tom Herrion clutched at a necktie.
"Didn't wear one," he said. "But we didn't play well, so don't expect to see that again."
Well, at least that's one thing we can count on.
Who knows with this Marshall team?
I mean, which Herd can we expect to show up for the next game?
The one that played seven consecutive ugly halves of basketball, making only 71 of 205 shots (.346) including 18 of 70 on 3-pointers (.257)? Or the one that showed up for the second half on Saturday night, playing great defense and actually shooting 58.3 percent from the floor including .556 on threes?
"The second half," answered senior forward Dennis Tinnon without hesitation.
And, no, he didn't clutch for that answer.
"Defense wins games," explained Tinnon. "We had to turn it up."
That meant clutching at a strategy Marshall hadn't used this season -- a 2-2-1 zone trap full-court press. But it wasn't just the press. It was who was on the floor keying the pressure.
Surprisingly, it was untested guards Tamron Manning, a true freshman who had logged only 11 minutes, and DeVince Boykins, a redshirt freshman who had played a mere three minutes.
And what did the "New Guard" do?
Just win the game for Marshall, that's all.
"We don't win the game without that press," said Herrion.
When Manning, who played 12 minutes, and Boykins, who logged 11 minutes, got finished with the press, Marshall had its first lead of the game, 49-48.
"They came in and gave us a spark," said senior center Nigel Spikes. "They played some real good defense. And they gave us a lead.
"They played really well. I couldn't be happier for them."
Nice job, rookies.
The best part is now Herrion has two new guards to add to a rotation that needs guard play and also has an intriguing new change-of-pace weapon to use in the 2-2-1 zone trap full-court press.
"Our press helped us immensely," said Herrion. "Our press changed the tempo of the game. I thought Manning and Boykins, in particular, gave us good minutes in the second half. Especially keying the press.
"Give them a lot of credit. Those two have been practicing well. That's why I got them in the game early."
Manning played four minutes at point guard in the first half and appeared very poised and confident.
"He has a good pace," said Herrion. "He has a good feel for the game."
Together, Manning and Boykins, who played the front of the 2-2-1 zone trap press, joined with DeAndre Kane and two big men to give the Herd a much-needed stratagem that seemed to make Marshall play better across the board.
"I think we can build on it," said Herrion of the press. "If we're going to be a pressing team, we have to commit to it."
Then, commit to it.
It's bound to cut down on the clutching.
Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827, or email him at email@example.com.