Chris Thomas

Men's Basketball

BOGACZYK: UAB's Glass-Cleaning Is Herd's Undoing

Feb. 20, 2014

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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - At halftime Thursday night at the Henderson Center, you'd have thought the scoreboard was a big lie.

The Thundering Herd was being outrebounded 33-17 by visiting UAB, was 0-of-12 behind the three-point arc, was hitting only 50 percent at the free throw line, had no bench points in 35 minutes played by four men ââ'¬Â¦ and trailed only 30-29.

Eventually, the above deficits caught up with the Herd, which fell 68-62 to the Blazers because of three things - rebounding, rebounding, rebounding.

"It's pretty simple," a frustrated Marshall Coach Tom Herrion said. "We were pummeled on the glass. We don't finish around the basket and we leave too many points on the foul line. We played really, really hard and we're supposed to. You have to finish around the basket, and we don't finish.

"Our execution was very good, but I felt we settled for too many jump shots. We did a nice job adjusting in the second half. Our defense was more than good enough to win the game ââ'¬Â¦ absolutely more than good enough to win the game. But blocking out and limiting second- and third-chance points is part of defense.

"Obviously, it is discouraging ââ'¬Â¦ The ingredient to beating UAB was rebounding the basketball. We did not execute that. We did not transfer that. Hitting our guys over the head day-in, day-out didn't transfer into getting the job done from 7-9 p.m. Thursday night ââ'¬Â¦ plain and simple."

It wasn't like Marshall (9-18, 3-9) was surprised by that.

UAB (16-10, 5-7) came into the game ranked second among 351 Division I teams with a 45.5-rebound average per game and 16.7 offensive rebound average. The Blazers' plus-8.9 total rebound margin ranked sixth nationally.

In the second half, Herrion's club had a 24-18 advantage in caroms, led by some inspired play by post man Cheikh Sane. But Marshall didn't get them when it counted.

The Herd also couldn't match UAB's bench, which held a 24-0 advantage in scoring. MU's reserves played 55 minutes, six fewer than the four backup Blazers.

Among UAB's 19 offensive rebounds were two following missed free throws in the final 40 seconds, leading to more Blazer foul-line chances. And although UAB was 59 percent at the stripe for the game, they made 9-of-12 in the final 2:10 to seal a Conference USA road win.

The Blazers' 51 rebounds matched the high against the Herd this season. South Carolina State had that number in an opening-game loss here back on Nov. 8.

"They just killed us on the boards," said Herd freshman forward Ryan Taylor. "At one point I think they had 16 more rebounds than us and then those at the end, that killed us, too. I think the issue tonight for us, besides rebounding, was making shots. We had open looks, but we didn't hit them."

Still, the Herd made 38.3 percent (23-of-60), while UAB struggled to 34.4 percent (21-of-61) against Marshall's 2-3 zone. The Blazers' misfiring was eclipsed by only one Division I foe of the Herd this season. Presbyterian shot 32.8 percent in a Henderson Center loss in early January.

Marshall's perimeter scoring was a struggle, as Taylor noted. The Herd didn't extend its streak of consecutive games with a 3-point goal to 737 until Chris Thomas hit from the left wing with 10:27 left. Thomas finished with a game-high 22 points, getting 12 of Marshall's first 14 points by mashing the gas pedal and bursting past the Blazers in transition.

"It's a tough loss," Taylor said. "I think it's tougher than the two road losses (at Southern Miss and Tulane two weekends ago on last-second 3-pointers).

There were 13 lead changes and 11 ties - the last of those at 50-50. From that point, UAB scored 18 points on 13 possessions, and just as costly as the failure to rebound missed Blazer free throws in the final minutes were three turnovers in a five-possession span in the final four minutes.

Once the Blazers slowed the slashing, 6-foot-5 Thomas, the Herd's degree of difficulty increased.

"I just got in the open floor and looked for open spots," Thomas said, "and I saw them backing up instead of trying to stop me, so I just tried to keep attacking and get easy layups and it worked."

Sane's 12 rebounds were the season high for the junior college newcomer, and the 6-foot-9 Senegalese post man continued his recent aggressive play. In the last four games, Sane has 27 points and 31 rebounds.

But UAB was its usual relentless on the glass.

"They (the Blazers) missed shots, and when someone does that, if we rebound, we can get out in transition," Taylor said. "When we do that, we can be as good as anybody in the country, but they slowed us down.

"This team, we don't really like to play halfcourt (offense), we like to get out in the lane, get breaks, dunk, stuff like that. We've got to rebound, that's it ââ'¬Â¦ We knew their zone (2-3) was coming eventually, and it was active, but we got open shots, the high-post flash, open looks. I think it was more us not making shots than anything they did. That, and free throws again (13-of-23, 56.5 percent)."

The Herd has been outrebounded in 16 of 27 games and is 4-12 in those 16. Marshall still is seeking its first two-game winning streak since home wins over UNC Wilmington and Western Kentucky on Nov. 23 and 26, respectively.

"Effort was not the problem tonight," Herrion said. "The result was the problem. It stinks. It stinks for our fans, our players, our coaches. It just stinks for everybody on campus.

"Give UAB credit because they're not a bad team. We knew that coming in, but we didn't get the job done."

It doesn't get any easier for Marshall. Next up is a 2 p.m. Saturday visit to "The Cam" by Middle Tennessee State (20-7, 10-2), which crushed host Charlotte, 71-49, on Thursday night. Middle has won eight straight games. The Blue Raiders share the C-USA lead with UTEP (20-7, 10-2), which rolled past Tulane on Thursday night as another C-USA co-leader, Louisiana Tech, fell at East Carolina.

In the 16-team C-USA, the Herd is tied for 14th place with ECU (14-13, 3-9), ahead of cellar-dwelling Rice (7-18, 2-10).

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