MOREHEAD, Ky. – If Marshall’s young women’s basketball team didn’t exhale until it reached about the Grayson rest stop on the I-64 bus trip back home Friday night, it’s understandable.

The 47th Thundering Herd season opened with a game for the ages at Ellis Johnson Arena, as sophomore transfer Taylor Porter swished two clutch free throws with 6.2 seconds left to finish an astounding 104-101 Marshall victory over host Morehead State.

“I’ve never been in anything like this,” Porter said.

Porter wasn’t alone. The Herd had a 25-point lead with 4:20 left in the third quarter, but the Eagles’ basket-attacking mentality and trapping pressure defense unraveled the visitors, who were outscored 31-13 in the final 10 minutes.
Marshall was rolling and making three-pointers, led by freshman Shayna Gore’s 27 points in 29 relief minutes, but the Herd’s perimeter marksmanship disappeared. The visitors went from running and shooting to trying to manage tempo … and it almost led to defeat.
“Coach wants to play fast, so when we’re at practice, it’s non-stop ‘Backcourt, backcourt, backcourt,’” Gore said. “When we had to slow it down, we’ve got to learn how to take care of the ball, not throw a lot of the passes we did. It’s new to us.”
Herd senior point guard Norrisha Victrum concurred.
“It was kind of like that,” said Victrum, who was named the Herd’s Player of the Game in the Mickey Wells Classic as much for her ability to settle down a coltish club as her 14 points and career-high 11 assists. “Everybody’s in the flow of the game, shooting threes and it’s hard all of a sudden.
“And I was out there, not yelling at them, but in a tone of voice, ‘Slow it down; slow it down.’ I think they listened. We made some mistakes, stuff we’ve got to work on. I think overall we finally did a good job not just doing what they wanted us to do -- take quick shots. They did a real good job trying to do that with us.”
The busy scoreboard provided the most points in the major college seasons of Herd women’s basketball.
Only once in 46 previous Marshall seasons has a game seen as many points by both teams – a 104-101 Marshall home loss to West Virginia Wesleyan in February 1979 – in the small-college AIAW days for the Herd.
Marshall hasn’t scored so many points since a 108-82 Southern Conference Tournament semifinal win over Georgia Southern in 1996 at Greensboro, N.C. Morehead’s 101 points were the most against the Herd since a 103-55 Marshall defeat at Toledo in January 1999.
Of the 10 players Daniel used, six were playing their first games in a Herd uniform. Senior Leah Scott scored 21 points, but struggled with 10 turnovers. Talequia Hamilton made her Herd debut as a redshirt senior with 14 points and eight rebounds, a board total matched by Scott and Hamilton’s former Huntington High teammate, Kiana Evans.
Porter, the Murray State transfer, was playing at Morehead for the first time although those two Kentucky schools are members of the Ohio Valley Conference. It was Porter’s closest game to her Fort Gay, W.Va., home – 80 miles away – and she scored 14 points to go with four steals, four assists and four rebounds.
When she stepped to the stripe with the Herd in front 102-101, “I knew I was going to make them,” Porter said of her first two free throw attempts in a Herd uniform. “I think I kind of put us in that position by taking a shot I probably shouldn’t have taken a few seconds earlier (a runner into the paint at 0:25), but I made up for it.
“It was fast-paced and we were up by a lot and we hit adversity. They really came back and then I think at the end we handled it well.”
Gore has taken up where she left off with a 1,991-point career at Logan High School, impressing in Marshall’s exhibition romp over Kentucky Christian last week, then hitting 10-of-14 against the Eagles.
“I love Marshall so far,” Gore said. “Coach is really relying on me right now, and the upperclassmen are always having my back. I was out there finishing the game … I’m only 18 and I’m out there finishing the game.
“I was a nervous wreck before the game, my first game. I’m on the bench and I looked over at one of my teammates and said, ‘I hope he doesn’t call my name now; my stomach’s hurtin’ … But once I touch the ball and get rid of it, I’m fine.
“So far, the game is coming to me easier than I thought. I think the exhibition game helped me a lot, getting a lot of my nerves out. That was a good experience for me, and having a good game motivates me to get to the next one.”
Marshall’s next five games are at home, starting with Sunday’s 1 p.m. “Jam The Cam” tipoff against Brescia (Ky.). The Herd then entertains Rhode Island on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Victrum’s 11 assists moved her into the top 10 in Marshall career history with 276, and her role as a “den mother” of sorts will be crucial with Daniel’s roster dominated by freshmen and transfers Hamilton and Porter. Evans hasn’t played much in her first two MU seasons, either.
“No, I’ve never been in a game like this, but everyone is going to go through things you’ve never been through at some point,” said Victrum, who is back from an ACL tear and surgery that cut her junior season short by six games. “I think we handled it well, on the road, especially with the young ones we have. We coped with adversity.
“It’s hard to settle down (the young players), but it’s nothing I can’t handle. I’ve been through a lot my four years. I’m like a coach on the floor. I’m supposed to be that, and I think they trust me enough that when I say we’ve got to slow the game down, they’ll slow it down like we did.”
Daniel liked his team’s 51-percent shooting, but he didn’t enjoy the 25 turnovers. Some of that was the Herd’s pace. More of it was Morehead’s doing in the fourth quarter.
“When you try and manage the game like that and you’re up 25 … ” an unsurprised Daniel said. “At the top of our scouting report it said, ‘When you play the pace they’re going to try to play, you’re never out of it, and you’re never in it.
“We tried to take the air out of it and manage things a bit, and it’s nothing the (veteran players) haven’t done in their careers. But with the youth, it’s hard for them to figure out what to do, what to do, and the pressure keeps getting greater. But this is a great lesson, and to get a win in your opener, and a road opener with a young team. I’m pleased with the outcome.
“Morehead’s playing a 300-mile per hour pace, which is hard to play against.”
And what about his team?
“We’re not to the Autobahn yet,” he said with a grin, “but we’re headed that way.”

#          #          #

Daniel’s program also has landed its first signee for 2016-17 in 5-foot-10 Asheika Alexander, described by scouting services as an “athletic off-guard who slashes.” Alexander averaged 16.2 points per game as a junior last season at South Gwinnett High School in Snellville, Ga. She played only 14 games before her season ended following an ACL tear.