Herd to Tango in Texas to Open Conference USA Play

Special to HNN Provided by Herd Zone

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Having closed out non-conference play on a winning note, the Marshall men’s basketball team will now turn the page to Conference USA play with a two-game trip to the state of Texas that will begin vs. UTSA, Thursday, Jan. 9 from the Convocation Center at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

In-game Twitter updates @HerdMBB, results and a recap from the night’s action will be available at HerdZone.com.

As has been the story in numerous games this season, the Thundering Herd had an even scoring distribution, and on Sunday vs. Presbyterian, it Marshall to a, 77-49, home victory.

Four members of the Herd scored in double figures, with freshman forward Ryan Taylor (Indianapolis, Ind.) leading the offensive charge with 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds as he recorded his fourth career double-double. Junior forward Shawn Smith (Sacramento, Calif.) added 16, while sophomore forward TyQuane Goard (Charleston, W.Va.) and freshman guard Kareem Canty (Harlem, N.Y.) each recorded 11 points in starting roles.

The Herd was able to use its persistence to record 31 second chance points, to six from the Blue Hose as the Herd held a 22-2 advantage in that category in the second half. Marshall also made itself at home on the glass as it outrebounded Presbyterian 50-32.

The Herd is currently 0-7 away from home this season and has not won away from the Henderson Center since Feb. 20, 2013, in an 82-70 win over UCF. Marshall is 2-21 away from Huntington since the start of the 2012-13 season.

With the starting lineup having been adjusted by coach Tom Herrion as a result of bumps and bruises to members of the Herd, it seems that Herrion and his staff have settled on a reliable lineup. For the last five games, the starting five has been Canty, Taylor, Goard, sophomore guard DeVince Boykins (Forest City, N.C.) and sophomore guard Chris Thomas (Denver). The group has posted a 2-3 record when starting together and is now the most used starting lineup to this point by Herrion.

The redshirt freshman forward has had a big impact for the Herd this season and last week especially as he was named Conference USA Freshman of the Week, the league office announced Monday afternoon.

On the three-game week, Taylor averaged 17.3 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game in road games at South Carolina (Dec. 30) and Akron (Jan. 2), before returning home to host PC (Jan. 5). In 29 minutes per game, Taylor finished 20-of-35 from the field (57.1 percent) and shot better than 50 percent in all three games.

On the season, Taylor ranks third on the Marshall roster in points (13.6) and first in rebounds (7.1). Since returning from a knee injury that kept him out of games at Vanderbilt (Dec. 5) and Penn State (Dec. 7), Taylor leads the Herd in scoring with 16.2 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game.

Marshall has yet to win a game this season in which it failed to reach the 70-point plateau. The Herd is 2-7 when scoring 79 or less points and 4-2 when scoring above 80. Having a 5-3 record when keeping opponents below 79 points of offense, Marshall is 0-6 when allowing the opposition to score more than 80 points.

Free throws have been a point of emphasis for the Herd this season as Marshall is 4-2 when converting more attempts from the charity stripe than opponents and 2-7 when making less free throws than the opposition. The Herd is shooting 60.5 percent from the line this season (268-of-445). Marshall’s 177 missed free throw attempts rank first in NCAA Division I men’s basketball.

Goard has come on strong since he was inserted into the starting lineup against Vanderbilt (Dec. 5). Goard is averaging 7.5 points per game in 25.2 minutes per game and is a team best 65.6 percent from the field (40-of-61) this season.

The transfer swingman has used his length and athleticism to help the Herd in its rebounding efforts as he is averaging 5.2 per game, ranking second on the team. 31 of his 78 total rebounds have come on the offensive glass, creating second-change opportunities for Marshall. Goard recorded his first career double-double on 21 points and 13 rebounds in 34 minutes against Arkansas State (Dec. 21). Goard also went 11-of-13 from the line against the Red Wolves.

With numerous scoring threats in the Marshall lineup, four members of the Herd are averaging double figures in scoring, three of which have become a mainstay in the Herd’s starting lineup: Canty with 16.4, Taylor with 13.6 and Thomas with 11.6. Smith is knocking on the double-digit doorstep as he is averaging 9.3 points off the bench.

The Herd has received scoring help from more than its top four scorers as Marshall has had three or more of its own score in double figures in 14 of 15 games this season. Unfortunately it has not always been enough as the Herd is 5-9 this season when three or more of its own score in double figures and 1-0 when two or less reach 10 points.

In his 17th season as the radio voice of the Thundering Herd, Steve Cotton is set to call his 750th Marshall sporting event from a combination of football and men’s basketball games. Cotton joined the Thundering herd Network in 1993 and served three years as the color analyst before taking over as the Marshall play-by-play announcer. Cotton also calls Herd baseball games and is a Michigan native and a University of Florida alumnus. Is also known for his hobby of wood carving.

The benefit of having a true point guard has helped the Herd greatly this year and Canty has been the primary reason for that. An average of 6.9 assists per game has the freshman ranking fifth in the country in dimes, while he is the top assist man in C-USA. Canty has recorded three double-doubles on the season, all coming from a combination of points and assists. He most recently recorded 14 assists against Alice Lloyd (Dec. 17), setting a career best and tying for fourth-most steals in a single game by a member of the Herd in the history of the program.

Canty had a shaky start against the Blue Hose his last time out as he committed five turnovers in his first 11 minutes on the floor, but the C-USA Freshman of the Year hopeful settled down and did not commit another for his final 27 minutes on the floor. As a team, Marshall committed just two second half turnovers after having recorded nine in the first half.

Entering its first year as a C-USA member, UTSA is averaging a league-low attendance of 787 per game at home. Just like Marshall, the Roadrunners have lost three of its last four games with its most recent contest having resulted in a 104-71 defeat at Southeastern Conference member Arkansas.

UTSA is last in the league on scoring defense, allowing 78.6 points per game to opposing offenses. The root of the defensive concerns stems from its field goal percentage defense, 48.4 percent, also a C-USA worst.

Junior guard Keon Lewis leads the Roadrunners in scoring with 15.3 points per game, but it is unsure whether or not he will see minutes as he is still recovering from a head injury suffered in practice a few weeks ago. Lewis is not the only scoring threat the Herd defense will be concerned with as UTSA has three other members of its team averaging double-figure points.

Thursday will mark the first meeting between Marshall and UTSA.

Marshall will conclude its two-game Texas trip against UTEP, Saturday, Jan. 11 at 9:05 p.m. ET.

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