Herd hosts last-place Rice
HUNTINGTON -- Only seven games remain in the regular season and the Marshall University men's basketball team needs to win all it can, regardless of where they're played.
Playing four of those seven at home should help.
"We hope, but we've got to make it happen," Marshall head coach Tom Herrion said. "We have great fans and hopefully they'll come out to support us."
Last-place Rice (5-18 season, 1-8 Conference USA) visits Cam Henderson Center for a 7 p.m., Wednesday, game against Marshall, which is 10-14 and tied for eighth place in the league at 3-6. Marshall has a Medical and Military Appreciation Day promotion with $5 tickets available online at HerdZone.com by using the promo code "MEDICAL." Free T-shirts for the first 500 fans at the game.
Marshall's other games left to play are Saturday (home) No. 22 Memphis; Feb. 20 at UCF; Feb. 23 (home) UAB; March 2 at Houston; March 5 (home) Southern Miss; and March 9 at East Carolina.
The Thundering Herd is still in contention for a top five finish and a first-round bye for the C-USA tournament March 13-16 at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.
"We still have an incredible opportunity left," Herrion said. "We can still attain all of our goals"
Marshall has been an up and down team throughout a season that began with high expectations.
The Herd has a 9-3 home record that includes a loss to Cincinnati in the Charleston Civic Center and C-USA wins over Tulsa, East Carolina and UCF, but has also lost a home game against Delaware State and a conference game against SMU.
Last week's losses at Tulane and UAB left the Herd 0-9 for road games.
"Consistency has been one of our downfalls as a group," Herrion said. "That's what driving us -- gaining consistency individually and collectively."
Marshall has four of the top 30 scorers in C-USA -- forward Elijah Pittman (15.1), point guard Dre Kane (14.8), wing guard D.D. Scarver (13.0) and forward Dennis Tinnon (10.5). Kane is sixth in the nation with 7.2 assists per game. Tinnon (9.1) and center Nigel Spikes (7.6) are among the league's top rebounders.
Kane, a junior, needs eight points to tie Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member Hal Greer (1,377) for 19th in school history.
The Herd is ranked 32nd in the nation with 38.5 rebounds a game despite getting outrebounded in its last four games.
C-USA team statistics show Marshall last for free throw percentage (57.1), 3-point field goal percentage (31.5), 3-point field goal percentage defense (37.0) and turnover margin (minus-2.6).
Rice doesn't have a great 3-point shooting team, but that doesn't stop the Owls who have taken more 3-point shots (504) and made more (171) than any C-USA team. Although the Owls are only eighth in the conference for 3-point field goal percentage (33.9), their 7.4 makes per game leads.
In its last game SMU beat Rice on its home court, 61-39, when the Owls made just 10 shots (10-for-51), but six of them were 3-pointers.
"We've got to start pressing up on guys, not letting them get the opportunity to come down to the three-point line and shoot," Tinnon said. "We've just got to get up on them right away."
The Owls of head coach Ben Braun were hit hard by defections before the season. Six players left the program, including all-conference forward Arsalan Kazemi who was granted immediate eligibility to play for No. 23 Oregon.
"Their roster changed and they're gaining a lot of experience," Herrion said. "Every game has been close for the most part."
Rice senior guard Tamir Jackson (16.0), who has 1,503 career points, and sophomore guard Julian DeBose (10.5) are the leading point producers for a team that's last in C-USA scoring at 59.7 per game, field goal percentage (39.8) and average rebounds (25.7). Jackson leads the Owls with 6.0 rebounds.
Point guard Max Guercy, a three-time conference freshman of the week award winner, scores 9.6 a game while junior guard Austin Ramljak adds 8.9.
Rice picked up its only conference win Jan. 30 against Houston, 79-69.
The Owls are 0-10 away from home.