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Chuck Landon: UAB gave blueprint to Marshall opponents

Mar. 02, 2013 @ 12:17 AM

It seems like a foregone conclusion.

Will Houston throw a generous dose of zone defense at Marshall when the Cougars host the Herd at 2 p.m., Saturday, in Hofheinz Pavilion?

Well, duh.

That's like asking if the Republicans are willing to play hardball with the Democrats on the sequester issue in Congress.

Or like asking if NCAA President Mark Emmert should lose his job for the fiasco involving the University of Miami investigation.

Or like asking if rushing the court at the end of a huge upset in a basketball game should continue to be allowed even after Duke's petty Mike Krzyzewski didn't like it when Virginia did it against him.

The answer to all of the above is an emphatic you betcha.

Yes, of course Houston coach James Dickey is going to throw at least a little and probably a lot of zone at the inconsistent shooting Herd. Why in the wide, wide world of coaching clinics wouldn't he?

Dickey clearly wouldn't be giving his Cougars their best chance to win if he didn't play zone against Marshall.

Just ask UAB coach Jerod Haase and Rice coach Ben Braun.

Although Rice is far and away the worst team in Conference USA, the Owls nearly stole a win at Marshall by surprising the Herd with a combination of 2-3 and 3-2 zones. Perhaps, the only reason Rice lost is it went man-to-man on one possession, allowing Marshall's DeAndre Kane to make a driving layup for a 71-70 victory.

Then, there's UAB.

The Blazers played a pedestrian 2-3 zone for the final 38 minutes against Marshall a week ago, resulting in a 52-48 win. Marshall missed 42 shots, was 3 of 26 on threes (11.5 percent) and shot a season-low 26.3 percent.

If you're scoring at home, that's a heavy dose of zone from opponents in two of Marshall's last four games.

Need I say more?

Not to Tom Herrion. Marshall's coach can read the zone-writing on the wall.

"Yeah, we would have to expect to see it," said Herrion. "We've seen a lot of zone. But, then again, Central Florida tried to do it and we made shots and they were out of it.

"So, it's a double-edged sword.

"But there's no doubt that it's something that we have to continue to prepare for, and be better at. And not just solely about making shots. We've got to find other ways to attack it."

And never mind that Houston's Dickey isn't any more of a zone coach than Herrion is.

"He's man," said Herrion. "He's man 90-95 percent of the time. He does zone. He plays a little bit of 2-3 and a little bit of 1-3-1. So, clearly we will prepare for that.

"Will it surprise me to see them use zone against us? No, not at all."

The crux of the matter is Marshall is going to continue to face lots of zone until the Herd gives opponents a reason not to play it.

"We prepare for zone," said Herrion. "We play against it every day in practice. ... different types. We'll continue to focus on it. We've got to have a better way of attacking zones, obviously. We've got to find a way to convert scoring opportunities when they arise, when they show. We're going to continue to move people around like we did with DeAndre (Kane) in our last game. We thought that was effective."

It was, yet Marshall still lost the game.

The bottom line is the Herd has got to find a way to beat a zone defense.

Starting Saturday.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2787 or clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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