Chuck Landon: Spikes extra motivated to seal win
Nigel Spikes is a good kid.
He wouldn't say "D.J." if he had a mouthful.
"That whole Donnie Jones. ... that whole thing is over with," said Marshall's senior center, who was recruited by Jones and played his redshirt freshman season for the former MU coach.
So, there wasn't any extra incentive? Spikes wasn't particularly motivated to play against Jones' UCF team? He wasn't on a mission to prove a point during the last time he ever would face Jones' Knights in the Henderson Center?
Believe that and I've got a used UCF banner I'll sell cheap.
The politically incorrect truth of the matter is there was no one Spikes would have rather had the best game of his career against than Jones and his Dark Knights.
And that's precisely what happened Saturday in Marshall's 75-71 win over UCF before 5,856 hearty fans at the Henderson Center.
Why, UCF couldn't have gotten "Spiked" worse if the Knights had been trying to make a hard slide into second base to break up a double-play.
Marshall's 6-foot-10 center spiked so many UCF shots, I thought I was watching a volleyball match. For the record, Spikes had nine blocked shots, which is the most since some forgotten guy named Whiteside played at Marshall.
Then, there was Spikes' scoring. Those two words seldom appear in the same sentence, but they did Saturday. Spikes scored 11 important points, including a huge post move for a basket to give Marshall a 68-64 lead with 1:12 remaining.
It was Marshall's final field goal of the game.
It also was Spikes' first double-figure scoring performance in Marshall's last 15 games. The low-scoring Spikes' only other double-figure game was a 10-point effort against UNC-Wilmington on Dec. 1, 2012.
So, tell me again how he wasn't extra motivated.
"Spikes was great," said DeAndre Kane, after dealing 12 assists. "I've been telling him that his presence has got to be a must. He's the biggest guy on the floor, he's got to play like that.
"He can jump out of the gym. And he's strong. I told him when he gets the ball, he's got to gather himself and slow down and make the move. You live with a miss, you live with a make.
"Today he played great."
He also played with pride. When UCF's 6-7 Kasey Wilson had the audacity to think he could dunk on Spikes, MU's center taught him a lesson.
"I don't back down from anybody," said Spikes when asked about the play.
That's why Spikes sent several UCF shots into the stands.
"I don't remember the last time I blocked nine shots in a game," said Spikes, whose previous collegiate high was four blocks. "Probably in high school, but I don't remember."
"I did it today," said Spikes with a huge smile, "I did it today."
Yes, he did. And his timing couldn't have been more perfect. Thanks to Spikes, the Marshall-UCF series ended with the Herd holding a 3-0 record against Jones in The Cam.
And so is this. Spikes' nickname among his teammates is "Scoop." At least, it was. But after nine blocked shots, now his name is Nigel "Swat" Spikes.
The only thing Spikes didn't do well was rebound. When informed that UCF out-rebounded the Herd, Kane shouted, "Again?" and slapped Spikes on the back of the head.
It was the only shot Spikes didn't reject all day.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or clandon@herald-dispatch