Monday night was full of strong showings by newcomers in the Marshall Thundering Herd’s 94-60 win over the Concord Mountain Lions of the Mountain East Conference. Kareem Canty, Shawn Smith, Ryan Taylor, and Chris Thomas each recorded double digit points in their first games in Marshall uniforms. Canty and Smith each had 15 points, while Taylor and Thomas added 14 points
Senior Elijah Pittman contributed 14 point as well, being the only returning player to rack up double digit points on a night where eight members of the Thundering Herd recorded their first career minutes at Marshall. Head coach Tom Herrion says that there’s still a long way to go for his team, despite a convincing 34-point victory.
“A lot of good things, especially how hard we played; unselfish,” says Herrion following the game. “But clearly a long, long way to go for us.”
The effort that Marshall put on the floor was a display of reaching freakishly high for steals and rebounds, as well as players giving up their bodies to make steals. In one instance, DeVince Boykins showed off his leaping ability in his first game at Marshall not wearing a knee brace, as he had surgery in the offseason before the 2012-13 campaign, and wore the brace throughout last season. That leaping ability allowed the redshirt-sophomore from Forest City, N.C. to snag the basketball out of the air with one hand and spoil an early scoring chance for Concord.
Rebounding was as strong as ever under Herrion for Marshall, as the Herd collected 51 total rebounds, 36 of them on the defensive glass, out-rebounding the Mountain Lions 51-28. Until a late flurry of scoring by Concord in the final two minutes of the game, Marshall had as many rebounds as the Mountain Lions had points, a sign that showed not only how stingy of defense the Herd was playing, but also how well it was preventing Concord from earning second chances. Taylor and TyQuane Goard each grabbed 10 rebounds, leading Marshall in that category.
In addition to the steals and rebounds, Marshall utilized a press defense for most of the night, and at one point in the second half, kept the Mountain Lions off the scoreboard for over four minutes. Overall, Concord shot a dismal 36.5 percent from the field, and netted just seven of 17 free throw attempts.
Offensively, Marshall put up 90 points, but Herrion admits there is most definitely room for improvement. One player all 3,923 people inside the Cam Henderson Center were watching keenly was redshirt-freshman Kareem Canty. The native of Harlem, N.Y. added in three assists and two rebounds to his 15 points, plus went a perfect 4-4 from the free throw line. Canty did turn the ball over eight times, a number Herrion says was too high. He did give Canty a bit of a reprieve though, saying not all of the turnovers were the fault of Canty.
“A couple of them were really good passes that we kind of dropped. No guard can be three (assists) and eight (turnovers) on a stat line. Eight is a big number, but he’ll correct that. He’s been really good with the ball all preseason. Some of them were drops, I thought, but still turnovers nonetheless, and we’ve got to do a better job overall taking care of it (the ball),” Herrion says.
Two of those dropped passes came when Canty attempted to hook up with Pittman for alley-oop dunks, both of which were not converted and the ball went into the hands of the Mountain Lions. Another came when Canty drove the lane, was cut off by a Concord defender, and tried to dish the ball to a wide open Cheikh Sane, who had the ball slip through his hands and out of bounds. In each situation, it showed how little the Herd had played together, despite having 22 days of preseason practice, plus summer practice, the additional practice allowed for teams taking a foreign exhibition tour, and the five games played north of the border in Canada.
The Herd was led in assists by sophomore Tamron Manning, who scored nine points, recorded four assists, and turned the ball over just once. Manning, having a season of collegiate basketball experience under his belt, looked to be considerably more comfortable handling the ball compared to a season ago when he was thrust into the role of backup point guard as a true freshman after being primarily a shooting guard in high school.
Concord was led by freshmen Ali Barnes and Grant Dickinson off the bench. Barnes scored 15 points on 4 of 6 shooting from behind the arc, all in the second half. Dickinson picked up 13 points of his own in the game.
Marshall shot 54 percent overall, 35 percent from 3-point range, and 57.9 percent from the free throw line.
– Braxton Crisp