Herd takes on C-USA co-leader
HUNTINGTON -- Marshall University forward Rob Goff had practically no practice time last week for the Thundering Herd men's basketball team.
Goff needed some time to rest an ailing right knee that flared up the previous weekend in a seat too cramped for his 6-foot-9 body during a long flight for a game at UTEP. Then he produced six points and six rebounds from off the bench Saturday in Marshall's 77-56 victory over East Carolina.
"It's just something I have to deal with," Goff said before boarding another flight for a Wednesday game at Southern Miss.
Marshall took it inside against East Carolina and whipped the Pirates on points in the paint, 52-30.
The 240-pound senior executed a power move on the left baseline for an early basket in the Herd's 12-0 spurt to open the game.
He made a layup off Dre Kane's feed, then when Kane missed a 3-point attempt Goff wrestled the rebound away from an East Carolina player and scored.
Goff scored all six of his points and grabbed four rebounds in the first half when Marshall ran away from its opponent.
He smiled at the suggestion that maybe he plays better without practice.
Marshall takes a 9-9 season record and 2-1 mark in Conference USA into a Wednesday, 7 p.m., contest at Southern Miss (15-4, 4-0) in Reed Green Coliseum where the Herd will need production from Goff and everyone else.
Southern Miss has won 22 consecutive home games -- the fifth-longest active streak in the nation.
The game is televised on CSS (Huntington cable Ch. 68).
A few weeks ago the Marshall team wasn't having any fun, especially following a two-point loss at home to Delaware State and a 37-point drubbing at Ohio.
But, players kept the faith and have won two of three since.
"It was more frustration than anything," Goff said. "Winning makes everything better."
Goff came to Marshall last season as a transfer from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College after first committing to the Oklahoma Sooners and was in the starting lineup for 33 of the 35 games. He was a starter for the first three games this season, but has come off the bench since.
The Indianapolis native provides post defense and an element of toughness in his 16.7 minutes per game while averaging 3.9 points and 3.5 rebounds with 10 blocked shots.
"I know I'm a senior and have to go out there to be a source of energy in this new role coach (Tom Herrion) has for me," Goff said.
Marshall takes on a Southern Miss team that conquered its last 10 conference opponents at home.
Southern Miss is doing it with a half-court zone defense that ranks first in C-USA and 22nd in the nation allowing just 58.1 points per game.
No Southern Miss opponent this season scored more than 70 and 11 foes didn't break 60.
"It's not a pure zone, it's more aggressive," Herrion said. "You have to be patient (against the zone). You have to find spots and holes. You have to attack it. We want our shooters to take shots."
The Golden Eagles led by former Morehead State coach Donnie Tyndall also rank fourth in C-USA scoring with a balanced attack generating 73.2 a game. They pack a lot of punch in a relatively small lineup led by 6-5 forward Dwayne Davis with a 12.9 average.
Six-foot junior Jerrold Brooks, 6-5 junior Michael Craig, 6-5 senior Jonathan Mills and 5-11 junior Neil Watson all score about nine a game while 6-7 junior Daveon Boardingham averages 7.4.
Mills, an all-conference third team player last season adds 6.7 rebounds a game.
Southern Miss makes shots (48.4 percent) and free throws (70.5 percent) while its pressure defense creates 19.5 turnovers a game.
Marshall is seventh in C-USA scoring 69.7 on average and ninth defensively giving up 69.2.
Junior forward Elijah Pittman (14.7), Kane (14.6), junior guard D.D. Scarver (13.8) and senior forward Dennis Tinnon (10.9) do most of the Herd's scoring.
Kane, a preseason all-conference selection, leads the league and is fifth nationally with a 7.6 assist average.
Tinnon (9.2) and senior center Nigel Spikes (8.5) are fifth and sixth respectively in the C-USA rebounding statistics.
The Herd is shooting 42.2 percent from the field and is listed 345th out of 347 teams in NCAA Division I for free throw shooting at 58.1 percent. The only teams shooting lower from the foul line are Vanderbilt (57.2) and UC Riverside (56.9).