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January 3, 2013

Game 15: OHIO

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Frustrating. Dreadful. Inefficient. Out of sync. Inexcusable.

There are simply too many adjectives to fit into this piece that can be used to describe Marshall's home loss to Delaware State Wednesday night.

None of them are positive.

The Thundering Herd was thoroughly outplayed from start to finish, and came up short on a late rally in a 53-51 defeat.

Perhaps more disheartening was that the game came after a 10-day layoff for the Herd. It was an opportunity to hit the reset button after a disappointing beginning to the season. Hard practices were a promise.

But none of that showed in the loss to the Hornets. Marshall regressed and lost to a team playing without its top player.

Inexcusable.

But in the world of college athletics, there can be no negative carryover from game to game. Once the final horn sounds on a disappointing loss, the immediate focus must be diagnosing problems that led to the loss.

Unfortunately, those problems were nothing new. A poor shooting night compounded by poor free throw shooting ended in a loss. Sluggish play from a physically imposing team that shows sometimes limited skill has become the norm.

Simply put, Marshall does not play with the fire and focus needed to succeed.

With the Delaware State game now in the rearview mirror, the Herd shifts its attention to a pesky rival that has beaten Marshall each of the past two seasons. Ohio made a Cinderella run in the NCAA Tournament last season, reaching the Sweet 16.

Exit coach John Groce to Illinois and new coach Jim Christian, a coach familiar with the MAC from his time at Kent State.

Christian inherited the bulk of that Sweet 16 club, but the Bobcats have been a bit sluggish of late as well. After a 6-0 start, Ohio is just 2-5 in its last seven games. That includes losses to Robert Morris, Winthrop, and UMass.

D. J. Cooper has been outstanding as expected this season. The point guard is scoring 14.3 points per game, while teammate Walter Offutt scores 11.9 per contest. The rest of the squad is balanced, meaning several players, such as Reggie Keely off the bench and Ivo Baltic, can make back-breaking plays in crucial moments.

Defensively, the Bobcats are allowing just more than 63 points per game. Considering Marshall's recent struggles on offense, that doesn't bode well for Saturday's matchup in the Convocation Center.

Marshall had just two players participate against Delaware State and not turn the ball over. Tamron Manning and Kelvin Amayo combined for 39 turnover-free minutes and four assists. Amayo had eight points in 16 minutes. His minutes will likely see a slow increase as he plays his way into game shape. In a season where the point guard position has been in peril, it was not the cause for the loss to Delaware State.

The Herd has not been getting any easy baskets. That comes from a lack of dribble penetration creating shots and a lack of pressure defense getting into passing lanes to create fast-break opportunities.

One key to take note of: Marshall forces just 12 turnovers per game. Ohio is forcing an average of 19 per contest. Any shakiness from the Herd, and that includes not just the guards, but on the interior as well, and Ohio will force mistakes.

Marshall will have to play its best game of the season to beat Ohio Saturday. The Herd has reached a point where if it is not fully alert to letting a promising season slip away prior to conference play, it simply will not succeed once C-USA action starts next week.


Ryan Epling is an analyst with Herd Nation. Comments and questions are welcomed and encouraged on the Old Fairfield forum.





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