Surprise! Herd routs Tulsa
HUNTINGTON — When Dre Kane dribbled to the right side of the court and swished a 3-point shot to open the second half, you just knew it was Marshall University’s night.
Marshall struggled to make shots in non-conference games.
But, when Marshall began its Conference USA men’s basketball season Wednesday night against the visiting Tulsa Golden Hurricane, everything clicked.
“Every guy on the team. ... the managers. ... the bench. ... we were all locked in today,” Kane said.
Marshall (8-8 season, 1-0 conference) made shots at a 45.0 percent clip, connected on 12 of 32 tries from the 3-point line and shot 65.0 percent at the free throw line (13-for-20). The Herd limited Tulsa to 36.5 percent field goal shooting and dominated the rebounding by a plus-15 margin in a rousing 79-61 victory before 5,115 spectators in Cam Henderson Center.
The Herd had lost three in a row and five of its last seven games.
“I’m awfully proud of my kids,” Marshall head coach Tom Herrion said. “I’m awfully proud to be the coach at Marshall with our great fan base. What a great turnout tonight from our loyal fan base. We’re excited about the fact that we started conference play 1-0, and I thought we played really well for the majority of the game.
“It’s a testament to our kids’ character and my staff. They have all done a great job turning the page quickly.”
Marshall’s next game is 9 p.m., Saturday, at UTEP (7-6, 1-0) which won Wednesday at Tulane, 66-57.
Tulsa (9-7, 1-1) was ahead, 6-5, early when Marshall took off on a 19-0 tear in seven-plus minutes. Marshall turned the one-point deficit into a 24-6 advantage with 8:45 left until halftime.
Herd forward Elijah Pittman, who scored 19, started the spree with a layup and made a 3-point shot later in the run. D.D. Scarver gunned in consecutive 3-pointers from both sides of the court and finished the surge by making a pair of foul shots.
Scarver and Kane both scored 16.
“Tonight was a game that Marshall came out and dictated the flow and tempo,” said Tulsa head coach Danny Manning. “They made shots, they rebounded the ball and we got behind early and couldn’t close the gap. Their coach does a good job of getting them to play hard, play unselfish and play together.
“At the beginning they were clicking on quite a few cylinders.”
Marshall did commit 20 turnovers, but made up for it by dominating shorter Tulsa in rebounds, 47-32. Forward Dennis Tinnon hit the boards for 11 rebounds and also pitched in six points. Center Nigel Spikes grabbed nine rebounds and scored seven points.
Backup forward Rob Goff contributed eight points and four rebounds from off the bench.
“We just had to come together,” Pittman said. “We’ve still got more to come.”
Herrion said ball movement and shot selection that led to making shots aided the fast start.
Kane started at the point guard position and played some minutes at both guard spots in his second game back from a hand injury.
The All-CUSA guard made six of nine field goal attempts and equaled his career best with four 3-pointers in six tries.
Kane also set up other shooters in scoring position with seven assists.
“He’s got the ability to get guys the ball at the right time,” Herrion said.
Herrion also said the Herd defense was suffocating at times in the first half, particularly the job turned in by Tinnon guarding Tulsa’s Scottie Haralson.
“In the first 20 minutes Tinnon played the best defense since he’s been here without scoring a point,” Herrion said.
Marshall defenders were locked in on Pat Swilling Jr. and Haralson, two of the league’s top 3-point shooters, who were averaging 10.8 and 9.8 points respectively. The Golden Hurricane guards both netted six points on combined 5-for-20 shooting. They were 1-for-9 on 3-pointers.
Tulsa had a trio of double-figure scorers — early C-USA freshman of the year candidate James Woodard (12), Shaquille Harrison (12) and Rashad Ray (11).
The Golden Hurricane won its conference opener Sunday at SMU with some clutch 3-point shooting by Haralson and Swilling, but missed too many chances Wednesday while sinking only three of 14.
Marshall took its biggest lead at 55-26 on a Tinnon jump shot with 15:12 left
The Herd’s 23-point halftime lead (43-20) was the largest of its time in C-USA.