Inside Marshall Sports

Herd-ECU in-game blog

Haven’t done this since my aborted attempt at Louisville, but I’ve got a relaxed deadline and I shall spew thoughts at each timeout.

Once again, my Monday column will be my take on the 2006 football recruiting class, which just finished play.

Officials tonight are Brent Dugas, Tim Gattis and Jeff Smith. Dugas last worked Wednesday, Centenary at La.-Lafayette and has handled two C-USA league games — last one on Jan. 8, East Carolina at Memphis.

Gattis has a good C-USA history, but hasn’t done a league game. He did do back-to-back UCF games at its holiday tournament in late December. He last worked Thursday, North Florida at Kennesaw State.

Smith last worked Quinnipiac at Brown on Monday, so he’ll have fresh legs. He last saw a C-USA team Jan. 2, Texas-Pan Am at Tulane.

Big news in C-USA: Southern Miss booted another road game, 79-65 to SMU. Tulsa grinded out a win at Tulane. UTEP plays Houston and Memphis plays UAB, so the winners will be 4-1 and the losers will be 3-2. With Tulsa already 3-2, the ECU-Marshall winner jumps into the pack. … As you know, the Herd needs this one with @UAB, Memphis, @Houston and @Southern Miss on the horizon.

10 minutes before the national anthem, I’m seeing a little bump in the general admission seats, nothing major. But you do know the late-arriving nature of an MU crowd. … With 1:30 left, we’re starting to see some humanity! Hmmm…

Starters are as you expect: Shaq, Kane, Pitts, Spikes, Baines. Good video from the WVU game!

HERD 13, ECU 6 AT 15:51: Darrius Morrow has the FT for a 3-point play pending. ECU is playing zone, and Kane and Shaq have combined for three 3-point bombs. Crowd rooting for the FB recruits about now.

HED 23, ECU 13 AT 11:38: Morrow has 8 points inside, but nobody else is doing much. The Herd is rolling, as Kane just tossed in another 3-pointer. He has 9. The Herd is really, really cutting off the 3-point shot, as the Pirates have hit just one.

HERD 31, ECU 20 at 7:09: Carl Lee is getting honored with a standing ovation… Herd is teetering on a blowout, though Jontae Sherrod hit a really long 3-pointer to cut into a 14-point lead. Morrow on the line for 2 shots. … Herd hitting 12-of-19 from the floor, outrebounding ECU 10-5.

HERD 39, ECU 28 at 3:40: Morrow missed both out of that timeout, and the Herd is hitting highlight-film shots. Kane and Pitts buried 3-pointers, the last off an Orlando Allen rebound and dish back out. Kane has 12, Shaq 8, Pitts 7.

HERD 44, ECU 36 AT 1:26: Kane hits 12-footer to slow rally. Pirates aren’t going away as long as Sherrod hits long bombs, and he just hit 2 in a row.

HERD 50, ECU 38 at halftime: Dago Pena buries 2 bombs, the last from deep to beat the buzzer. He’s got 8, Shaq 8, Kane 15. For ECU, it’s Sherrod 14, Morrow 12, Young 6, Abrams 4 and that’s all, folks.

HERD 53, ECU 47 at 15:21: Herrion couldn’t wait for the first radio timeout to stem an awful start. Spikes and Allen have 3 fouls, as do ECU’s Morrow and Gaines. Robert Sampson and Sherrod have banged home 3-pointers, and the Herd still has yet to hit its first field goal of the half. Baines has 3 free throws, but that’s it.

HERD 53, ECU 47 AT 14:42: It gets no better as Pitts is way short on a 3, Allen clanks a jumper after the offensive rebound and Kane fouls. Yuck.

Attendance is 6,709, a season high by a fair margin.

HERD 57, ECU 54 AT 11:35: Pirates tie it on 3 Morrow baskets in a row, but Pena has broken the FG drought with a 3-bomb, his 3rd of the game. Baines just abused Corvonn Gaines on a drive, and the Pirates have the ball back with 25 on the shot clock. Herd looks perked up, finally.

HERD 63, ECU 54 AT 10:29: Pena has hit two more huge 3s.

HERD 65, ECU 56 at 8:54: Jeff Lebo takes another timeout as crowd breathes easier. Note: Sherrod’s last shot was changed from a 3-pointer to a 2 some time back.

HERD 70, ECU 61 AT 7:03: Brock Young has a foul shot after a spinaround bucket. That is answering two nice midrange jumpers by Baines, the last in transition. He has 14, Kane 15 and Pena 17. Morrow has 24 for ECU … oh, yeah, Allen has fouled out and Spikes and Aundra have four fouls each. Ouch.

HERD 75, ECU 68 AT 5:16: Huge tip-in by Baines off a missed FT, followed by Sherrod bomb. And now Williams has taken a seat with 5 fouls. Spikes is the last center standing.

HERD 75, ECU 70 AT 3:27: Getting tense again after two Morrow FTs. He has 28. Shaq had a big steal, but Pitts’ twirling layup just rolled off the rim. Pirates have ball with 13 left on the shot clock … timeout called on a near-turnover.

HERD 75, ECU 70 AT 3:17: Last radio timeout. ECU has ball with 3 on the shot clock after Spikes blocked Morrow inside. Fans though the ball never touched Spikes’ hand and therefore is Herd’s ball. Tense possession.

HERD 81, ECU 74 AT 1:42: Pitts just buried a 3 after ECU scored 4 straight points — 2 on a backcourt steal of Pitts. Baines had a 3-point play beforehand. Clutch plays all around.

… Very tardy last entry. I found it hard to digest the final 1:42. As you know, ECU 82, Herd 81. Wow.

Came up on an unrelated search, don’t know if that’s a go. If JuJuan Seider and Zach Smith are on the case, the Herd has a shot.

For Monday, I am recounting the Herd recruiting class of 2006, after a few paragraphs of general grumpiness. Try to get through those as best you can… 😉

Midnight Herd-WVU thoughts

Ohhhhhh, what a night at the Civic Center. Where do I start?

— Tirrell Baines worked hard for four long years to get this one. Five offensive boards in this game was a manly accomplishment.

But I’m feeling he hasn’t gotten his due as a master at drawing the charging foul. He anticipates the driver’s path, gets himself planted in plenty of time and doesn’t worry about the contact. And I don’t recall him flopping very much in four years.

That charge he drew on Casey Mitchell with 1:26 left was as big as any. DeAndre Kane then got fouled and hit two at the other end to make it 67-58, allowing the Herd to absorb those silly 3-shot fouls.

— I swear I nearly voted Aundra Williams and his one point as the Herd’s MVP. He played a career-high 23 minutes — he had never played more than 16 against a Division I foe — and helped hold Deniz Kilicli scoreless in the final 28:28. When Kilicli scored four baskets in 21/2 minutes, I thought the Herd was in deep doo-doo.

— I wondered if Damier Pitts would rebound from missing the fall semester. I never dreamed he would do so this well!

— Do not, I repeat do NOT, get worked up about losing most of a 24-point lead. Not that is wasn’t appropriate to get worried while you’re watching it go to single digits, but don’t dwell over it now. You won. That is why you get 24-point leads if you can. The other team gives scholarships (in this case, Big East scholarships), and 24-point leads don’t guarantee a 40-point win.

One way I look at it: Did the trailing team ever have possession with a chance to tie or take the lead? In this case, no. Herd had ’em all the way.

— Do get worked up over this: Marshall’s record in games after beating WVU. I’ll have to add it up again, but I know it’s not good. And next up is Jeff Lebo’s East Carolina team, which just buried UCF in Orlando.

— The Knights are 1-3 in Conference USA. Guess Donnie J. needs to jack up the heat in his arena on everybody.

FB recruiting item

One thing I tripped over while in the office on this fine Friday night:

After last weekend on WR Robbie Anderson, South Plantation High, Fla.

Memphis licking its wounds

In my preseason rankings, I overrated Marshall’s next opponent, at least for now. I did, however, say the Tigers set up to be better late in the season, and this isn’t late.

They’ve got to get better, because it probably won’t get worse than the 64-58 loss at SMU on Wednesday. Did I read this straight: The Tigers went 0-for-9 from the line in the second half? Wow.

And the Mustangs scored 17 points in a row? Wow.

You know the drill … good news is these bunch of Tigers aren’t that good; bad news is they’ll be a little surly when the Herd arrives for an 11 a.m. Central Time tipoff. The Herd will want to be awake for this one.

Here is the Memphis-SMU game from the Dallas Morning News.

Vinny C to the NFL?

I have just been told that Vinny Curry has asked the NFL to have his draft value appraised, and is considering entering the draft a year early. He is discussing it with coach Holliday, etc., and will make his decision public.

This one blindsides me a bit. I thought he was a year away from perhaps being a really good prospect. And I’m wondering why anybody’s coming out with the NFL labor situation uncertain? Nobody gets paid in a lockout, you know…

Up next: Southern Miss at home

Marshall will be at home, but this won’t be easy. After watching/listening to James Madison’s Denzel Bowles play three good halves against the Herd, here comes Gary Flowers to Cam Henderson Center.

Here’s what he did in the Golden Eagles’ 85-73 win, both in the Hattiesburg American and on the USM site. He was a beast in the 2010 C-USA tournament, going for 55 points, 35 rebounds and 7 blocked shots. As I have said, this is the best PF in the league.

Much more for Friday night/Saturday morning …

C-USA update

As much as I disdain New Year’s resolutions, I’ll try to post more this basketball season. With that, we have Conference USA stars from Sunday, plus the upcoming schedule. Thanks go here to the league office.

Memphis freshman Antonio Barton (Baltimore, Md.) scored a career-high 24 points, including five three-pointers, as the No. 21/22 Tigers defeated Tennessee State, 91-86. Freshman Tarik Black (Memphis, Tenn.) also established a new career-high with 22 points, scoring 15 in the first half, and Will Barton (Baltimore, Md.) added 19 points and team-high eight rebounds. Memphis improves its winning percentage to 81 percent (73-17) in the month of January since the 1999-2000 campaign. 

UTEP senior G Julyan Stone (Goleta, Calif.) was just two rebounds shy of a triple-double as the Miners defeated Sam Houston State, 74-65. Stone tallied 12 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. He had zero turnovers for the 20th time in his Miner career. With his 10 assists, he became the third C-USA player in history to register more than 600 career helpers. He now needs just (five?) more assists to break the conference record currently held by USF’s Reggie Kohn (606). UTEP has tied the school record for most wins entering league play.

Marshall junior G Damier Pitts (Charlotte, N.C.) scored a career-high 25 points, including 17 in the second half, to lead the Herd to a 74-65 road victory at St. Bonaventure. Pitts helped MU make a run in the second half before finishing the night hitting 7-13 shots, including five three-pointers. 

Sophomore F Arsalan Kazemi (Esfahan, Iran) scored a game-high 20 points as Rice knocked off TCU, 70-61. Kazemi was 10-for-11 at the line on the night and went 5-for-7 from the field, but the reigning C-USA Player of the Week had a streak of four straight double-doubles come to an end with an eight-rebound effort. Rice trailed by as many as 10 points early in the first half, but Frizzelle drained a three-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game at 30-all at the half. Out of the intermission, the Owls scored the first 11 points to go up 41-30.

With a 56-point, second-half performance, Tulane defeated Texas-Pan American, 88-65, for the Green Wave’s eighth-straight win at Fogelman Arena (and a perfect 7-0 this season). The win marked Tulane’s best start to a season since also opening the 1999-00 season with a 10-3 record. It was head coach Ed Conroy’s 100th career win, with stints at The Citadel and Francis Marion.

SMU posted its seventh-straight home win and the Mustangs have won eight of their last nine games following an 82-49 victory over Dallas Christian on Saturday. Senior Papa Dia (St. Louis, Senegal) scored 18 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for his 17th career double-double. 

Monday, January 3
East Carolina at North Carolina Central – 6:00p
Wednesday, January 5
Tennessee St. at (21) Memphis (SportSouth) – 2:00p
Marshall at St. Bonaventure – 3:00p
TCU at Rice – 3:00p
Sam Houston State at UTEP (TW Texas) – 3:00p
Texas-Pan American at Tulane – 5:00p

Donnie Jones replies

Donnie Jones and I had a sometimes spirited chat about my Monday column within the past hour, and I will give him some space here.

First, he pretty much hit the roof over my reference to the “Benedict Donald” nickname, and I understand. A few of his family members didn’t take kindly to it. I even apologized to Jones … though I must point out he should have heard that nickname by now. It took, what, 15 seconds to come out after reports of his hiring?

Jones denies, in the strongest terms, that he and UCF had been in contact before Marshall’s elimination from the CBI. I told him the same thing I’ll say here: I don’t buy it for a minute. That would have made the process as short as four days … no way, no way, no way. Bear in mind that UCF AD Keith Tribble is a Florida grad and a former assistant AD there.

(Please keep in mind: ADs always have a short list of coaches and a loaded Rolodex. Always.)

When Marshall struggled to beat Western Carolina and got smoked by Appalachian State, I really thought something amiss. When he was linked to the UCF job, I connected the dots. Shoot, I’m thinking his head was in Orlando when Marshall fell to Tulsa at the C-USA tournament. (Bear in mind, Kirk Speraw had shoveled the last bit of dirt on his stay the night before, when the Knights got waxed by UTEP.)

Jones tells me some Marshall fans are flying down to “support me,” and I do know a lot of Thundering Herd fans who harbor no ill will. But I don’t think Jones realizes the statement he made when he jumped ship to a conference rival. (One mitigating factor: This isn’t 1985, when the visitors’ bench sat in front of the student section, and the students showed little mercy.) I don’t see a warm, fuzzy visit to Huntington for Jones in March.

There shouldn’t be. I’ve long since gotten over coaches leaving for greener pastures (sure beats seeing them get fired), but a West Virginia native bolting for a top conference rival? Could you imagine Rick Huckabay defecting to Chattanooga, back in the day?

Conference USA’s first basketball media day is Monday. Hmmmm …

Reaction to Da Boss’ column

If you haven’t seen it, Mitch Vingle’s column on the near-certain end to the Herd-WVU series.

And here is a sample of the reaction from Herd fans, as seen on

My question to the green-clad masses: Should MU officials even *bother* pursuing it?