Herrion: Marshall past feud with Jones
HUNTINGTON -- For players and coaches, it might not have been personal, but the Marshall Thundering Herd mens basketball team gave fans what they wanted Saturday with a home win over UCF and Donnie Jones, 75-71.
Make no mistake, Marshall and UCF had been stoking the fires of a rivalry for years. But that fire got a can of gas dumped on it when Jones, a Point Pleasant, W.Va., native left his job coaching the Herd to coach the Knights -- a conference foe -- in 2010.
Saturday's contest was UCF's last trip to the Cam Henderson Center in the foreseeable future, as the Knights are leaving Conference USA for the Big East. Marshall still has to go to UCF Arena for a Feb. 20 game.
But just like the previous two trips to Huntington, the crowd of 5,865 lustily booed Jones as he was introduced.
He also got a round of "Bye, bye Donnie" followed by rhythmic claps when it became apparent the Herd was going to hold on for the win.
Marshall center Nigel Spikes, who was recruited for the Herd by Jones, had the game of his life with 11 points, nine blocks and eight rebounds, while going 5-for-6 at the free throw line where he's normally a 45 percent shooter. Four of those foul shots helped the Herd seal the victory late in the second half.
But Spikes wouldn't take the bait when asked if he had any personal motivation to beat his former coach.
"That old Donnie Jones, that thing is over with," Spikes said. "It's all about basketball, and we really wanted to win and we were desperate for a win, so we went out and got it."
DeAndre Kane, the other Jones recruit still playing for Marshall, talked about the intensity of the rivalry, but left the coaches out of it.
"It's basketball, and it's Marshall/UCF," Kane said. "We knew it was going to be physical, and, toward the end of the game when they knew we were going to win, there was some trash talking and stuff like that. But it is what it is, and we're not backing down."
Marshall coach Tom Herrion said it was a good win over a good team. It's one the Herd would certainly take after dropping three straight.
"You haven't been around me much the past few weeks, it's just good to get a win," Herrion said. "And from program to program, we're beyond that, we're too far along with the changing coaches. We have great respect for Donnie and his kids and how hard they play and what they do.
"Yeah, there's sidebars and stuff, but there was stuff (between MU and UCF) before I even got here. Don't forget that."
Despite the boos, and the three straight losses at Marshall, Jones said he's going to miss coming to the Cam.
"I've got great respect for this place," Jones said. "One of the best places in college basketball is right here. It's been a great venue, and obviously it's become a good rivalry. Yeah, we'll miss coming here."