Chuck Landon: UCF too hot for Herd to handle
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Forget the blood and tears.
It all just came down to sweat.
Everyone expected Marshall to be out for blood here Wednesday, considering the Herd was facing former coach Donnie Jones for the first time since he left for UCF.
And, yes, everyone figured there would be tears one way or the other. Either tears of joy if Marshall upset the unbeaten, 19th-ranked Knights or tears of bitterness at losing to its old coach.
Well, everyone was wrong.
The only moisture that mattered in UCF's intense 65-58 win over Marshall before a season-high 9,094 fans in UCF Arena was sweat.
First and foremost, the sweat of Marcus Jordan's brow helped UCF win.
But the sweat that made everybody uncomfortable in the incredibly hot and humid UCF Arena also sidelined several Marshall players with cramps, helping the Herd lose.
"They sweated us out," said Marshall coach Tom Herrion.
How very true.
Both literally and figuratively.
"This was the warmest arena maybe I've ever been in," said Herrion, who actually got a little woozy at one point in the game.
The heat and humidity also caused Dre Kane to cramp up so violently, he had to be taken to Marshall's locker room midway through the second half to get an I.V. of fluids. Kane never returned.
"It was really hot," said Tirrell Baines, who had 14 points and eight rebounds but wasn't able to finish the game because of repeated cramps in his left calf. "It was like playing in an old rec building."
The uncontrollable sweating also led to Damier Pitts sitting on the bench with twin ice bags taped to his calves.
"Damier was way out of sorts tonight because of the cramps," said Herrion.
Maybe that led to Pitts' uncharacteristic 2-for-11 shooting performance, including only 1-for-7 on 3-pointers. Or maybe it was UCF's outstanding perimeter defense.
Most likely, it was a 50-50 mixture of both.
With all that sweating and all those cramps, the last thing the Herd needed was for Jordan to turn up the heat. But that's precisely what the 6-foot-3 sophomore son of former NBA great Michael Jordan did.
The younger Jordan was unstoppable in the second half, scoring 18 points on one relentless drive to the hoop after another.
"We couldn't stop one guy," said Baines, shaking his head in disbelief. "I thought (Isaac) Sosa would hit big shots. But Jordan was the game-changer. He was going hard."
And he was going right.
Every single time.
"Goes right, goes right," said Herrion. "We didn't do a good job against the ball screen. We worked on it for two days in practice."
Yet, Jordan was able to take over the game during a 10-0 run by UCF that seemed to sap the Herd mentally and physically.
"The emotion took over how we were playing," pointed out Shaq Johnson, who scored a team-high 15 points off the bench. "It was about how the game was going. We were playing hard, but we weren't playing to the best of our ability.
"We put our heads down a little bit. We were looking for calls instead of making plays."
That's when the Herd committed its biggest mistake of the night.
Marshall's players let UCF see them sweat.
Think blood in the water creates a feeding frenzy? A panicky sweat does that in sports.
"You can't win like that," said Baines. "But we'll redeem ourselves Saturday."
No sweat, right?
Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827. E-mail him at email@example.com.