Marshall feeds off fans’ energy, rolls by Louisiana

— By David Walsh

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Relentless is the word Abby Beeman used to describe the on-floor effort and support from the youth-dominated fans as Marshall raced past Louisiana, 74-42, Wednesday morning in Sun Belt Conference play at a loud Cam Henderson Center.

It happened to be Education Day and in celebration of Women in Sports Day, and that attraction enticed a season-high crowd of 3,024 to show up. Students had their school colors on and sat in designated sections at the arena. They cut loose with vocal backing from start to finish. They got memorable moments when they appeared on the video screen on the scoreboard during breaks in the action.

“The enthusiasm,” Beeman said. “Everyone stepped up. The kids … relentless for 40 minutes. To have that kind of atmosphere is special.”

“I’m not usually happy after a win. I am happy today,” first-year Herd coach Kim Caldwell said. “Coming off that pressure from the JMU (James Madison) loss. Two people out. People came in and stepped up.

“The crowd … unmatched. Credit to the people who help do this. Those screams. I need a Tylenol.”

That’s the fewest points the Sun Belt Conference leader has allowed in a game this season and the fewest scored by the Ragin’ Cajuns. The Herd’s biggest lead was 32 (74-42) with 39 seconds left.

Marshall is 17-6, 11-1 in Sun Belt play. Louisiana is 9-12 and 5-7 in the SBC. Marshall’s win total matches what the Herd did a year ago.

“It’s completely different,” Beeman said. “Lot of close games. This year start fast and close games. Trust your team, trust your coach. We always do that and deliver.”

In addition to a new coach, the Herd roster features several new faces. One — Aislynn Hayes, a new face, and Mahogany Matthews, a returnee, did not play Wednesday.

Beeman led Marshall with 14 points. Sydni Scott added 11 and Breanna Campbell 10.

In Saturday’s loss to James Madison, the Dukes handled the Herd press fairly well, limited points off turnovers and ruled in points in the paint.

Wednesday, the Herd forced 29 turnovers and got 35 points off those mistakes. Marshall more than doubled the Ragin’ Cajuns in points in the paint (30-14). And in fastbreak points, Marshall ruled 18-0. No hangover from the JMU defeat.

“No fastbreak points. It’s huge,” Caldwel said. “That’s something we harped on. We rep hard on it. We use that loss to make us better. I didn’t love the fourth quarter at all. We’re just trying to get out. We were better on the defensive end. Makes my job a little easier.”

This was the second meeting between the two SBC member. The first came on Jan. 5, 1985 in Orlando and Louisiana’s name then was Southwestern Louisiana. Marshall won that one, 90-85.

The Ragin’ Cajuns had won three of their last four games before Wednesday.

Marshall led, 20-8, after the first period and expanded the margin the rest of the game. Ten of the 12 Herd players who saw action scored.

Brandi Williams led the visitors with 18 points. She made four of her team’s five threes. No other Louisiana player eached double figures.

Marshall is off until Feb. 15 when it takes on Appalachian State in Boone, N.C. Tipoff is noon. That game is first of four straight road contests.

Louisiana’s next game is Saturday against Central Michigan in Mount Pleasant, Mich. It’s part of the Sun Belt vs. Mid-American Conference Challenge.

Marshall is one of two teams in the league who will have the weekend off.

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