Herd women look for weekend sweep
HUNTINGTON - Following Thursday’s 57-48 win over Old Dominion University, players from the Marshall University women’s basketball team celebrated on the court, snapping photos and enjoying the moment after one of the biggest wins in the last two years.
However, Marshall head coach Tony Kemper had an important message for his team just minutes later before they left the locker room.
“Once doesn’t make it maturity,” Kemper said. “We just figured out how to be a better basketball team. Now, can we do that consistently? e certainly were more mature (Thursday), but we can’t backslide with our focus.”
When Marshall (7-7, 1-0 Conference USA) takes on Charlotte (8-5, 0-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday in Cam Henderson Center, the Thundering Herd will be looking for its first weekend sweep and back-to-back conference wins since the 2016-17 league season when they defeated FIU and Florida Atlantic to open the conference slate 2-0.
Since that weekend, Marshall had won just six of 32 conference games, which perhaps made Thursday’s celebration warranted - especially after holding Old Dominion, one of the league’s top offenses, to 31 percent shooting and forcing 23 turnovers.
Now that the Herd has a bit of momentum, the team is looking to sustain it, which is the next step for Kemper’s building of the program. To do so, the Herd will have to rely on the things that earned them the win - a scrappy defense that creates offensive opportunities.
Marshall forced Old Dominion into 15 first-half turnovers en route to a 27-13 lead at the break. The 13 points allowed were Marshall’s fewest allowed in almost 17 years when the Herd gave up only eight first-half points to Akron on Feb. 26, 2002.
One of the impressive things about Marshall’s defensive effort was it came without the services of center Ashley Saintigene, who was injured just 24 hours prior to game-time.
Khadaijia Brooks slid into the middle spot of the Herd’s zone defense and used her veteran savvy to overcome a size disadvantage against the Monarchs, who had trouble getting it into the middle against Marshall’s crashing defense.
Brooks finished with 12 points, five rebounds, three blocks and two steals - one of which was critical in the fourth quarter.
“Khadaijia, her versatility just helps us so much with the injury thing that happened - it happened 24 hours ago,” Kemper said. “You take a player and move her to a different position, but she’s real sharp, so I can still run all the plays we just ran. She slides over in a different spot and she’s off and going. That really helps.”
Midway through the fourth quarter, Old Dominion cut Marshall’s lead to six, but a steal and subsequent 3-pointer by Shayna Gore ended the run.
Then, after Old Dominion secured a rebound, Brooks anticipated a pass from Amari Young to a guard, stole it underneath the basket and drew a foul. The quick surge of momentum helped Marshall steady the ship.
“I think it’s playing with heart, honestly,” Marshall senior guard Taylor Porter said. “It all comes down to whether you want it bad enough.”
Shayna Gore and Porter are the Herd’s top scorers with 18.1 and 10.5 a game respectively. Brooks adds 8.2 points and collects 6.6 rebounds.
Marshall meets a Charlotte team hungry for its first conference win after falling at Western Kentucky, 76-58, on Thursday.
Jade Phillips leads Charlotte in scoring average (13.5) and rebounds (7.8) while point guard Laia Raventos averages 11.1 points, 4.2 assists and 2.4 steals. Mariah Linney adds 10.8 points per game and is the team’s leading 3-point shooter at 43 percent.