Thundering Herd falls at Villanova
VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Trailing by two to three possessions over much of the final 30 minutes Sunday at Villanova, Marshall University's men's basketball team stayed within striking distance thanks to consistent offensive production from the perimeter.
The Thundering Herd never, however, got the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead in the final 10 minutes thanks to inconsistent defensive play, and that performance helped send them to their first loss of the season.
Unable to string together long stretches of solid defense and make stops at critical junctures, Marshall dropped an 80-68 nonconference decision to Villanova at The Pavilion in the 2K Sports Classic.
"Defensively, I thought we were really bad, the first 20 minutes, in particular, and throughout," Herd coach Tom Herrion said.
"Clearly we didn't get the job done on the defensive end of the floor and on the glass. We go back to the drawing board a little bit, regroup."
Trailing since Wildcats guard James Bell hit a mid-range jumper with 10:18 to play in the first half, Marshall pulled within two at 70-68 with four minutes to play on Chris Martin's 3-pointer, the first time the Herd was within one possession since midway through the second half. But on the ensuing Villanova possession, Bell hit an open 3-pointer to put the Wildcats back ahead by five with 3:34 to play.
That 3-pointer proved back-breaking, as Villanova pulled away over the final three-and-a-half minutes in what proved to be an easy finish.
"It's definitely tough," said Martin, who scored 13 points. "We've just got to stick together."
That was one of a number of occasions on which Marshall was unable to clamp down on Villanova to reinsert itself into the thick of Sunday's game.
Despite star Dre Kane being held to four points on 2-of-10 shooting from the field, the Herd (1-1) maintained consistent offensive production throughout the contest, led by D.D. Scarver's team-high 22 points. But numerous times in the second half, Marshall followed a big basket by allowing a Villanova score, and perhaps none was more demoralizing than Bell's late 3-pointer.
"Defensive breakdowns on our part," Herrion said. "I think we over-helped on dribble-drive, a good kickout. We know Bell's a great shooter."
Villanova (2-0) led 43-35 at halftime thanks in large part to the play of freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono. Arcidiacono scored 20 of his game-high 25 points in the first half, hitting four of seven 3-pointers before halftime.
On many of Arcidacono's first-half 3-point shots, he got open coming around a high screen.
"He can shoot. He can really shoot," Martin said. "I didn't realize he could shoot that deep. I went under a couple of screens, and I should have gone over, not given him as many looks."
Villanova enjoyed a 37-15 advantage on free throws attempted, its 25-8 edge on points from the foul line helping it maintain and build a lead throughout the game. Scarver was forced to sit out much of the final six minutes of the first half with foul trouble after picking up his second personal foul with 12:34 to play in the first. He was called for his third personal foul with 1:09 left in the half and didn't return until almost six minutes into the second half.
"On the road, you've got to adjust to the whistle," Herrion said. "We didn't adjust to the whistle, but we're a pretty strong, big team; we drive it. For us to not even get close to the bonus in the second half, that's eye-raising a little bit."
In addition to its defensive difficulties and foul trouble, Marshall had trouble rebounding throughout the contest.
With a tall roster and athletic frontcourt, Marshall outrebounded Longwood, 49-27 in its season-opening win Friday. That advantage on the glass wasn't there Sunday, as Villanova outrebounded the Herd, 37-23, including a 9-3 advantage in offensive rebounds.
"I was real pleased with our rebounding," Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. "I was really proud of that effort."
Sunday's loss against the Big East's Villanova is the first of Marshall's four nonconference games against teams from power conferences, with dates against No. 3 Kentucky, No. 24 Cincinnati and West Virginia in the offing.
Marshall will now have four days before taking back to the court Friday against District of Columbia, the first of three games in three days at Hofstra as part of the 2K Sports Classic. With that stretch coming up, taking lessons from Sunday's loss is imperative.
"I know during a basketball season there's ups and downs," Martin said. "When there's downs, you've just got to keep your head up."
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