Marshall returns home to face off against Conference USA newcomer FIU tonight inside the Cam Henderson Center.
On the road trip to Rice and Louisiana Tech last weekend, the Herd came away with its first C-USA win of the season, a 73-63 decision over Rice. However, Marshall could not carry that momentum into Ruston, La. as the Bulldogs jumped out to an 11-point lead in the first half and held on to win 98-77 over the Herd.
FIU comes into the contest 3-2 in C-USA and is riding a two-game win streak. Marshall redshirt-freshman forward Ryan Taylor said it is nice to get back home, and expects the Panthers to put up a strong fight.
“We’re expecting a hard playing team that will play us in zone [defense],” Taylor says. “We know they have good players. Rakeem Buckles was at Louisville then transferred down there.”
Buckles is averaging nearly a double-double at 13 points and nine rebounds per game but is not the only player the Herd will have to look out for on Thursday. 6-5 senior forward Tymell Murphy shoots 60.1 percent from the field, including 32 percent from three-point range.
Marshall head coach Tom Herrion says Murphy will be a challenge to defend.
“Murphy is really good,” Herrion asserts. “He’s one of the best players in our conference. He’s a hard guy to guard, because he’s a really athletic left-handed slasher.”
Taylor says it is paramount to be more intense than the Panthers.
“We’re ready to get back out on the court and play somebody after that last road trip,” Taylor says. “We’re expecting them to come out and play hard, but we have to play even harder.”
On top of playing hard on the court, the Herd sees the benefit of having a strong crowd behind it. Herrion says playing in front of the Herd faithful always helps his team feel energized, but also that his team needs to play up to its capabilities at home.
“We’ve got to handle business in our home building,” Herrion emphasizes. “We’ve given away too many games in the Henderson Center already and we have to protect our home floor. It’s always nice to be back, and hopefully our fans will respond.”
The community members are not the only fans Herrion wants to pack the Henderson Center for home games. He hopes the students get out and cheer on the Herd as well.
“We’d like to rally the student body,” Herrion says. “We’ve been gone a lot, now we’re back and we want to give them a reason to come and more importantly a reason to help change the game. They can change the dynamics and atmosphere with their enthusiasm, their attendance, and their spirit. No one has better appreciation for our fans in general, but students in particular, than me as a head coach.”
Marshall and FIU met once previously in series history, an 88-79 victory on Nov. 29, 2010 as non-conference opponents inside the Cam Henderson Center. In that game, the head coach of the Panthers was former New York Knicks head coach Isaiah Thomas, and former Herd guard DeAndre Kane scored a game-high 25 points to lead Marshall to victory.
– Braxton Crisp