by Ed McCarnes

Thunder loud. Thunder soft. Thunder loud within soft. The Marshall women’s basketball program experienced both major step-ups and expected slips in its significant 2015-16 season.

Credit the growth to a merger of (1) team improvements and (2) the increasing energy generated by a growing fan base. The two fed off each other. Tag youth and inexperience as the source of anticipated reverses.

Forthcoming change was approaching, and the change would be dramatic. But it was hidden behind the veil of future time and remained unrecognized.

The prophecy of a change was clear. Marshall had one of the nation’s top recruit classes. The class was ranked second among NCAA mid-majors.

But the prophecy was muted in matter-of-fact language. It received little media notice and even less follow up. The fan base, in its dispersed inter-season mode, and unaccustomed to inter-season hype, generally remained unresponsive.

A 77-point practice game win attracted attention. But it was a sizzling 104-101 season opening win at Morehead that brought program related buzz to audible levels.

Marshall would finish its pre-conference schedule at 10-1. Included were winning streaks of six and four. The only loss was to highly regarded WVU.

Success in C-USA play improved as the season progressed. An 0-2 start ended in a 4-5 first half. Two season ending road wins brought the second half record to 5-4. The Herd improved its record against C-USA schools to 11-10 with a 2-1 tournament record. A WNIT loss against regarded Ohio brought the final season record to 21-12.

A matrix of statistics matching results against various composites of opponents best illustrates how the thunder increased.

Total field goals: Marshall outscored all opponents 818-768 and non-conference teams 331-268. Against C-USA, the Herd fell short at 487-500.

Three-point goals: Marshall edged all opponents 219-218 and conference opponents 134-128. Non-conference foes ended with a 90-85 advantage.

Free throws: Marshall prevailed against all opponents 470-374, conference teams 298-279, and non-conference competition 172-95.

The Herd was less dominating in its floor game.

The major strength was in blocked shots. Against all opponents Marshall prevailed 127-91. Versus C-USA the final total was 78-53, and against non-conference teams the final totals were 49-38.

In assists Marshall led non-conference opponents 188-157, but trailed all opponents 441-464 and conference teams 253-307.

Marshall outperformed non-conference teams 106-95, but was edged by all opponents 243-250 and C-USA squads 137-155 in steals.

The Herd’s major problem was in rebounding, where it fell short against two of the three designated classes. Against all teams, final numbers were 1232-1244. Marshall trailed conference foes 718-785. In non-conference games, Marshall held a 514-459 advantage.

Behind the results as described are the causes. Comments made by head coach Matt Daniel during the season profile the factors behind the success.

* “You get fed up (with losing) and change.”

* “The support we’re getting is overwhelming.”

* “The crowd helps energize us. It’s weird how it helps our energy.”

* “We need to be a great energy team with our inexperience.”

* “We’re the most inexperienced team in the country.”

* “We’ll have growing pains.”

* “Some days we’re focused and some we’re not. You’re dealing with 18-22-year-olds.”

* “We’re dangerous every night. We don’t know who will step up.”

And, finally, the season-wrapping and program-locating summary.

* “Marshall is no longer a hospital. You (visiting teams) don’t come here to get well.”