Coming off its first Conference USA loss last week to UTEP, the Herd returned to the floor with vengeance by dominating the East Carolina Pirates 77-56.
The Herd never trailed in its 21-point victory and controlled the game on both ends of the floor.
“This is obviously a terrific win against a really good club that came in playing as good as any team in our conference,” said Marshall coach Tom Herrion.
Offensively, the Herd found its groove shooting 48 percent from the field, and 39 percent from 3-point range. Marshall had a balanced attack with four players scoring in double-digits, led by DeAndre Kane’s 22 points.
The Herd pounded ECU inside, scoring 52 of its 77 points in the paint.
“We really wanted to establish the paint; they’ve got some good bigs who can score the ball down low. Our guys dominated the paint, they played strong. It was great to pound them in the paint,” Kane said.
In Marshall’s previous losses, the major problem had been turnovers resulting in easy points for opponents. However, against ECU, the Herd committed just 13 turnovers and allowed the Pirates to score just 16 points off those turnovers.
“We shot the ball really well overall, and that’s because we moved the ball and took good shots and we executed very well,” Herrion said.
The Herd led wire-to-wire after opening the game up on an 18-2 run in the first 10 minutes. The team opened up its lead to as much as 25, and took a 20-point lead into the half.
The Pirates made a push of their own, opening the second half on a 6-0 run that cut the margin to 14, but the Herd responded with an 8-0 run.
“A team like that is never out of a game,” Herrion said. “They’re an amazing comeback team. It’s great to get off to a good start, our crowed energized us and we really fed off it. It’s a lot easier to play when you’re ahead.”
The Herd held ECU to 32.8-percent shooting from the field, the Pirates’ worst performance of the season. The Pirates’ 56 points also marked their second-lowest total of the season.
Marshall’s defense tallied nine steals and scored 24 points off of 18 Pirate Turnovers.
“We defended. Our defense set the tone, I thought our defense was outstanding for the majority of the game, minus a few breakdowns,” Herrion said. “I thought our scheme and game plan was outstanding, we played a lot like we practiced all week.”
Maurice Kemp came into the game averaging more than 18 points a game, but the Herd held the Pirates’ leading scorer to just 10 points on 5-15 shooting.
“We put good pressure on him knowing he’s there leading scorer and that he can get going right away, Elijah (Pittman) did a great job on him and got him out of his comfort zone,” Kane said.
Marshall improved to 9-9 overall, and 2-1 in Conference USA play. The Herd will play its next two games on the road at Southern Miss on Jan. 23 and Memphis Jan. 26.
— Jarrod Clay