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November 29, 2012
Following Marshall's 70-67 win over Morehead State Wednesday, Herd head coach Tom Herrion said he liked grind-it-out basketball games.
If that's the case, he has to like what he's seeing on film from UNC-Wilmington.
Marshall (4-3) will battle the Seahawks (3-3) Saturday night at 7 inside the friendly confines of the Cam Henderson Center.
The Seahawks have struggled to score of late, topping the 60-point mark just once in the past five games. That effort netted 61 in a one-point win over Hampton last Sunday.
Included in that stretch were three straight efforts in which UNC-Wilmington failed to reach the 50-point mark.
Well-traveled head coach Buzz Peterson, who seemingly has never turned a job offer down regardless of which direction it takes him on the coaching ladder, has a team that simply isn't scoring.
The woes began with a 101-58 loss to Richmond on November 13. It only got worse on the offensive end from there. Losses at Ohio (85-47) and Purdue (66-40) followed, then a grinding 49-37 win over Wofford at home.
And, yes, the teams played two 20-minute halves. That was a game in which Wofford had more turnovers (16) than field goals (15) and shot a remarkably consistent 29.4 percent from the floor, 22.7 from three-point range and 28.6 percent from the free throw line.
That's how a team scores under 40 in a modern college basketball game.
UNC-Wilmington was only slightly better, scoring 18 field goals against 17 turnovers.
That doesn't mean the Seahawks are devoid of talent. Keith Rendleman averages just more than 16 points per game and a shade under 10 rebounds. The 6-foot-8 senior forward should provide a great game-within-the-game matchup with Marshall's Dennis Tinnon.
Beyond that, Marshall has a distinct advantage statistically at every position. The Seahawks are out-rebounded per game, meaning if Rendleman is kept off the glass, the rest of the team struggles to get boards.
DeAndre Kane continues to play the point guard position better than could be expected for someone playing out of his natural position. His versatility has helped him average 16 points per game, while also leading the team in assists at 8.9 per game. Despite his shooting struggles, which are obviously more mental than physical, Kane is establishing himself as one of the best to wear green and white in many years.
Herrion's focus on junior college recruiting has paid off. Elijah Pittman and D.D. Scarver are each over 14 points per game. Both are shooting over 85 percent from the free throw line. Tinnon's 12.6 points and 9.0 rebound averages are both outstanding complimentary numbers.
The only thing that seems to be missing is the obvious: team free throw shooting. Despite Pittman and Scarver's gaudy numbers, the team is shooting just under 61 percent from the line.
Nigel Spikes has become a force inside, averaging nearly eight points a game. He also has a team-best 10 blocks and averages 8.6 rebounds per game.
This is an important game for Marshall as it heads into a difficult portion of the schedule. Included in the Thundering Herd's next eight games are contests with West Virginia, Cincinnati, Kentucky, and Ohio, none of which are in the Henderson Center.
That makes Saturday's game a must-win for the squad moving forward.
Expect UNC-Wilmington to attempt to slow the game down and grind it. Marshall likes that style and can still outscore the Seahawks even in a slow game.
If Herrion really likes grinders, this will be a game the coach will sit back and enjoy.
At least until the jacket toss, which will likely happen within the first three minutes of play. On second thought, perhaps he'll enjoy it more on film after the fact.
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Ryan Epling is an analyst with Herd Nation. Comments and questions are welcomed and encouraged on the Old Fairfield forum.