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Marshall's Savannah Wheeler (4) drives the lane against Kentucky Christian's Anna Keeton (10) during the season opener for the Herd on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, at the Cam Henderson Center in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — Former Marshall University football coach Bobby Pruett often called improving from one game to the next “making a jump.”

Thundering Herd women’s basketball coach Tony Kemper referred to it as “taking a step.” No matter the terminology, both coaches expected their squads to improve as the season progressed.

Kemper said he was pleased with most aspects of Marshall’s 89-40 rout of Kentucky Christian Tuesday in the season opener, but his team will have to play harder and better when it entertains Norfolk State (1-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“We have a really good team coming in,” Kemper said of the Spartans, who opened with a 67-48 loss to Liberty on Tuesday. “We made a few more mistakes (against Kentucky Christian) than I want to make on Saturday. We have to shore some things up and go against a team that’s going to compete really hard. They’ll be a tough matchup this early in the season. We need to take a step on Saturday.”

Marshall dominated most aspects against the Knights, but a second quarter lull didn’t please Kemper. The Herd also outrebounded Kentucky Christian just 41-40.

Norfolk State matched Liberty 34-34 in rebounding, but suffered through a dismal shooting night, making just 18 of 58 shots, including 1 of 13 from beyond the 3-point line. The Spartans also hit merely 11 of 27 free throws. Kemper said Marshall can’t count on Norfolk State having another off night from the floor and the line.

“We try to play really tough inside the three,” Kemper said of his team’s defense. “We don’t extend our defense very far, but if you’re trying to go to the rim, that’s pretty tough sledding in there. We’re going to get better. Our defense is going to get better.”

Norfolk State is led by redshirt senior guard Chanette Hicks, who scored 18 against Liberty. Hicks, a transfer from Virginia Tech, scored all her points inside the 3-point line. La’Deja James, a 5-8 redshirt senior and transfer from Georgia Tech, scored nine against the Flames. Shekinah Howard, a 5-11 sophomore forward, scored eight.

Marshall, too, is guard oriented. Junior Kristen Mayo led the Herd with 19 points against Kentucky Christian. Freshman Savannah Wheeler scored 18. Still, the Herd shared the ball well.

“We had 17 assists and left some out there, too,” Kemper said. “We had a couple of really nice kick outs we didn’t finish and a couple of dump offs at the rim. I think this is going to be an unselfish team and I’m excited about that. There were times when someone could have taken it on their own and they dumped it off to somebody else.”

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