Herd faces former coach
HUNTINGTON -- Actually, it is just one game in a marathon men's basketball season.
Marshall University plays a Wednesday game at UCF with the sideshow of Thundering Herd head coach Tom Herrion matching moves against former Marshall head coach Donnie Jones, who left for UCF this season.
But, there's more.
UCF (13-0) is ranked No. 19 in the nation and one of only seven remaining undefeated teams along with Duke, Ohio State, Kansas, Syracuse, San Diego State and Cincinnati.
And, it's the Conference USA opener for both squads.
"It will be kind of emotional from a fan standpoint, but it is kind of like another game -- another big game," said Marshall guard Shaq Johnson, one of seven Herd players coached last season by Jones. "Our conference opener. Going on the road. From an RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) standpoint it's going to be big for us.
"It's not us against coach Jones. It's over with. You can't keep living with that."
Marshall (10-3) and UCF meet at 7 p.m., Wednesday, at UCF Arena in Orlando, where the Herd flew Monday from southwestern New York state after winning a Sunday game at St. Bonaventure, 74-65.
UCF was 21st in the Monday morning CollegeRPI.com report. Marshall was 79th.
Damier Pitts led the win over the Bonnies (7-5) with a career-high 25 points. The junior guard has scored 13, 13, 18 and 25 in four games since regaining academic elgibility at semester break.
Johnson followed with 14 points and junior forward Johnny Thomas snagged 12 rebounds.
It was Johnson's first game back after serving a mandatory suspension for throwing a punch in a Dec. 22 loss at James Madison.
"I just came in and did the things I know I can do and things I needed to do," he said.
Marshall's defense held its ninth opponent to less than 70 points. Thomas sparked Marshall to a plus-16 rebound advantage over St. Bonaventure.
The last time Marshall and UCF met -- Feb. 27,2010 in Huntington -- the Herd prevailed, 121-115, in triple-overtime. It's a pretty safe bet neither Marshall nor UCF will approach those numbers this time.
"Things are different," Johnson said. "It's a different system. It's defense and rebounding. That's our identity now. Teams might not be used to that, but that's how we win.
"Our offense comes off our defense."
Marshall didn't just allow St. Bonaventure forward Andrew Nicholson to score 29 points, but there was a definite emphasis on stopping other Bonnies. Nicholson is the Atlantic-10 Conference leader with a 22.4 average, so he's going to score.
Ogo Adegboye, the Bonnies' point guard averaging 12.7 points, was blanked until the final 1:13 when he scored five. Adegboye and Michael Davenport are both 40 percent 3-point shooters and were a combined 1-for-11.
"We got on a good roll," Johnson said. "We executed the scout (scouting report) and just did the things we needed to do."
Marshall had a light workout Monday at the University of Buffalo before flying to Orlando.
Forward Eladio Espinosa made a cameo appearance for one minute against St. Bonaventure after missing three games because of a toe injury.
Dago Pena, a starting guard, is still being listed as day-to-day because of a right shoulder injury. He is on the trip, but wasn't in uniform Sunday. Pena's 9.5 scoring average was missing the last two games.
Marshall sells its share of Capital Classic tickets
HUNTINGTON -- Marshall University sold out its allotment of tickets for the Capital Classic.
Marshall and West Virginia University men's and women's basketball teams play in the Jan. 19 doubleheader in the Charleston Civic Center.
The Marshall Athletic Ticket Office will have 325 tickets reserved for MU students on sale to members of the Marshall Maniacs student group on sale beginning at 8:30 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 11. The tickets are $10 each.
Members of the Marshall Maniacs will also be able to purchase tickets Wednesday, Jan. 12.
Any remaining tickets will go on sale to the general student body at 8:30 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 13 at the Cam Henderson Center ticket office.
-- The Herald-Dispatch