Chuck Landon: Record reveals what Herd has to fix
That combination of numbers is so significant it bears repeating.
It was Marshall’s record when the Herd played against big, strong, physical opponents during the 2017-18 season. It’s no coincidence five of Marshall’s overall 11 losses came against those very teams.
So, there is no doubt in which area Marshall’s basketball program needs to improve the most between now and the opening game of 2018-19.
No doubt whatsoever.
The Herd has to get bigger and stronger, which, in turn, should lead to Marshall’s players becoming more physical and growing tougher.
All those attributes, all those improvements are very necessary. That was proven unequivocally during the 2017-18 campaign.
It began with a debilitating 112-87 defeat to Western Kentucky on Jan. 6 in the Henderson Center. It ended with a catastrophic 94-71 loss to archrival West Virginia University last Sunday in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32 in Viejas Arena at San Diego.
Sandwiched between those two games were similar losses at Old Dominion, at Western Kentucky and against Old Dominion in the Henderson Center.
The lone win was a hold-your-breath decision, 67-66, over Western Kentucky in the championship game of the Conference USA Tournament.
But even in that one victory, Marshall got beaten on the boards by a decisive margin - 47-37 overall, 18-13 on the offensive glass.
It was a familiar theme all season.
In the 112-87 loss to Western Kentucky in “The Cam,” MU was pulverized 53-26 in rebounding, including 15-7 on the offensive board. Next, in the 82-76 loss at Old Dominion, Marshall lost the battle of the boards 43-32 and 13-8 on the offensive glass.
Then, during the 85-74 loss at Western Kentucky, the Hilltoppers dominated Marshall 45-30 on the boards overall and 11-5 offensively. Next, Old Dominion used a 39-31 margin on the boards, including a whopping 17-5 advantage on the offensive glass, to defeat the Herd 84-79 in the Henderson Center.
So, it should have come as no surprise when the bigger, stronger, more physical and tougher Mountaineers used a similar recipe to beat Marshall in the NCAA Tournament. WVU dominated the Herd 40-24 on the glass, including a deceptive 15-10 margin on the offensive board.
In those six significant games, Marshall was outrebounded 267-180 overall and an eyebrow-raising 89-48 on the offensive board. That calculates to average margins of 44.5-30.0 overall in those six games and 14.8-8.0 on the offensive glass.
Those are numbers to lose by.
That is what has to get fixed.
And everybody realizes it.
“We’ll probably have to get in the weight room,” said Marshall coach Danny D’Antoni during his postgame news conference after losing to WVU.
Marshall’s rail-thin, 6-foot-10 junior Ajdin Penava concurred.
“As far as I go,” said Penava, “Coach said I’ve got to hit the weight room, and that’s probably (what) I can emphasize this offseason. Just get my weight up and get stronger.”
The probable additions of 6-10, 300-pound-plus Iran Bennett and 6-10, 265-pound Levi Cook should help alleviate the problem. But they’re not the whole solution. The entire team needs a tougher mindset.
And star point guard Jon Elmore knows it.
“We’re going to have to go back to the drawing board,” he said. “We’ve got to get bigger, faster, stronger. That’s what our guys are going to do. We have kind of turned Marshall basketball around, but we’re not satisfied yet.”
Nor should they be.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at email@example.com.