Struggles continue for Marshall women
HUNTINGTON -- There is a lot going for first-year Marshall women's basketball coach Matt Daniel. Off the court, that is.
"I love being here. My family loves it. My wife (Dr. Jennifer Daniel) has a great job. My staff is great, the administration is great," Daniel said. "The only thing I don't like is basketball."
On the court it continues to be a different story and that bothers Daniel, his staff and, to some extent, school administration officials who watched Sunday's game against UAB at Cam Henderson Center. The Blazers turned the ball over just seven times, compared to 22 for the Thundering Herd, and used strong second-half shooting to pull away to a 61-45 victory in Conference USA play.
Marshall, picked to finish 12th in the league in the preseason poll, occupies that spot now after losing its seventh straight. The Herd's last win was Dec. 20 against Furman. The Herd also is No. 12 in the league in scoring.
Despite all those lows, Daniel did express some optimism in his post-game visit with the media.
"We're going to get things turned around," Daniel said. "I don't know how long it's going to take."
UAB, which leads C-USA in scoring defense, came up with 13 steals and scored 25 points off the Herd turnovers.
"Way too many turnovers," Herd guard Erica Woods said. "We've got to buckle down and take care of the ball. It's a daily grind. It's coming. We're this close. We need one to get over the hump."
UAB (13-5, 5-1) is tied for second in the league. Marshall (6-12, 0-5 C-USA) returns to action Thursday against East Carolina in Greenville, N.C. Tipoff is 7 p.m.
"It's amazing how close we are to winning the league," Daniel said. "I know that is a weird statement, but we are about a foot on 10 plays from having UAB on the ropes. We competed for the most part, but we have to execute plays."
The Blazers led by as many as 10 points in the first half, but Marshall cut the deficit to four (29-25) at the break. In the second half, the deficit was still 10 (52-42) on a layup by Leandra King with 6:24 left. Unfortunately, the Herd went the next 4:08 without a basket and the Blazers pulled away to even the all-time series between the schools at 9-9.
UAB had four players do all the scoring. Amber Jones led the Dragons with 21. Karisma Chapman added 18, Ashley Grimes 12 and Michaelea Kleist 10.
Erica Woods, who played all 40 minutes, paced Marshall with 11 points.
"We're asking her to do a lot at both ends," Daniel said. "She continues to grow. It's the lack of success I don't like."
UAB encountered problems well before the game, but coach Audra Smith said the Blazers handled the adversity.
"I am proud of the way our girls grinded today," Smith said. "We ran into a few travel delays coming into the game, forcing us to miss practice last night and shoot around this morning. We had some tired legs on the floor, but we just kept fighting, which tells you how good this team can be.
"Patience was the key for us on the offensive end. Marshall threw a lot of different things at us and we handled most of it very well. I credit the girls for executing down the stretch and pulling out a tough win. I thought we stayed poised and focused at crucial points in the game, and that is what we need to compete in this league."
Down the stretch, Daniel called three time outs despite the outcome no longer being in doubt.
"We checked out. We can't do that," Daniel said. "The mentality ... it bothers me. We competed, but we can't turn the ball over 22 times. Execution is killing us. If we don't fix it, it will continue to be a problem for us."