Season teaches Manning a lesson
HUNTINGTON -- Tamron Manning didn't know much about losing when he became part of the Marshall University men's basketball program.
Manning's team at Scott County High School in Georgetown, Ky., lost only five games last season while winning 34 and playing for the Kentucky Sweet 16 state tournament championship. Scott County had a 23-6 record in Manning's junior season and was 29-7 when he was a sophomore.
"It's a big learning experience," said Manning, a freshman logging 10.3 minutes per game for Marshall, which is 11-15 overall and 4-7 in Conference USA.
Marshall, tied for eighth place in C-USA, has five games left beginning with a 7 p.m., Wednesday, contest at UCF to turn its record around and earn a higher seed for the conference tournament March 13-16 in Tulsa, Okla.
UCF (17-8, 7-4) isn't eligible for the postseason because of NCAA sanctions.
"There's still a lot of hope," Manning said. "We just have to refocus and realize we still have games left."
Marshall and UCF meet for the final time as C-USA rivals with the Knights joining the Big East Conference next season. It's also Marshall's final scheduled meeting with UCF head coach Donnie Jones who coached the Thundering Herd from 2007-10.
UCF is not eligible for the postseason because of NCAA sanctions, so the teams won't face off in the conference tournament.
Manning is a 6-foot-4, 200-pound guard getting 10.3 minutes of action per game. Much of his playing time is at the point guard position in relief of junior Dre Kane who plays more than anyone in C-USA at 36.9 minutes per game. Kane gets most of his breaks by moving to the off-guard position when Manning comes off the bench.
His contributions aren't showing up in the boxscores, head coach Tom Herrion said.
Manning is having trouble making shots -- 4-for-21 from the field and 1-for-10 on 3-point attempts -- but has made eight of 10 free throws. He averages 0.8 points and 0.6 rebounds with 24 assists, eight steals, two blocked shots and 19 turnovers.
"He's playing with more confidence and he's been getting more minutes," Herrion said. "He's taking advantage of it."
Manning said he's learning and trying to get better each day.
Marshall played one of its best all-around games Feb. 2 to defeat UCF, 75-71, in Cam Henderson Center.
Elijah Pittman scored 20 and Marshall had its best shooting effort of the season at 51.9 percent while limiting UCF to 41.3 percent. D.D. Scarver added 16 points for Marshall, Dennis Tinnon added 13 and Nigel Spikes had 11 points and nine of the Herd's 14 blocked shots. Kane had 12 assists and Marshall committed just 13 turnovers.
"We beat them here in a close game and that gave us a lot of confidence," Manning said. "Winning close games is better than winning blowouts because it gives you a lot more confidence."
Pittman, a 6-9 junior forward, is eighth conference scoring (15.4), Kane is 11th (14.4), Scarver 18th (12.9) and Tinnon 29th (10.7). The 6-8 Tinnon is third in rebounds (9.2) and the 6-10 Spikes is ninth (7.3).
Junior guard Isaiah Sykes of the Knights averages 15.5 points and preseason conference player of the year selection Keith Clanton of the Knights, a 6-9 forward, is next at 15.3 while leading the team with 8.9 rebounds a game. Sykes and Clanton are seventh and ninth respectively on the conference scoring list.
Clanton had 24 points and nine rebounds against Marshall earlier.
Point guard Calvin Newell (11.5) and 6-8 forward Tristan Spurlock (11.2) round out UCF's double-figure scorers.
Game notes: Marshall has a 9-6 series advantage, but the Knights are 5-2 against the Herd in Orlando. ... Marshall has a 10-4 record at home this season, but is 0-9 in road games and 1-2 in neutral-site contests. ... UCF is 13-3 at home. ... The teams are playing the 100th game in UCF Arena that opened in 2007. ... UCF is 11th in C-USA for free throw shooting (64.2 percent) and Marshall is 12th (last) at 57.5 percent. ... Kane is seventh in the nation with 7.2 assists per game. ... Clanton is making his 124th game appearance for the Knights, a school record.