Practice schedule perfect for Herd

March 2, 2019

HUNTINGTON — When Conference USA announced its bonus play schedule on Feb. 16, Marshall’s men’s basketball team found out that it did not have another contest for 12 days.

At that time, Marshall has lost seven of its last nine contests, which left head coach Dan D’Antoni with an interesting dilemma on how to spend the long layoff.

Given the Herd’s struggles, D’Antoni could have opted to work each day stressing fundamentals and getting up shots in the gym with the team struggling, at times, to find its mark.

However, the unconventional head coach of the Herd went a different route with his team.

D’Antoni wanted his players to do nothing - in this sense, that meant giving them chunks of days off to focus on getting proper rest to make the stretch run at full strength.

Marshall senior Jon Elmore said D’Antoni’s gameplan for the 12-day layoff worked to perfection as the team came out crisp and played solid basketball without any lulls for 40 minutes in a 90-79 win over Louisiana Tech on Thursday night.

“I honestly think that was the best game we’ve played for 40 minutes all year,” Elmore said. “I think our coaches did a good job of taking it easier on us with the schedule. Our conditioning level went up and, it seemed like that really helped us in the game.”

After Marshall’s 98-93 win over Middle Tennessee on Feb. 16, D’Antoni gave the team off from practice until the following Wednesday (Feb. 20) to refresh. The team practiced for two days to go over some things that they needed to sharpen, but that two days was followed with another pair of days off to keep the team fresh heading into preparation for Louisiana Tech.

Marshall’s travel schedule also varied for the trip to Louisiana Tech with the team leaving on Tuesday instead of

Wednesday for the Thursday contest, which gave the team a day to get acclimated in Ruston, Louisiana.

Proof of the benefit of D’Antoni’s schedule showed in the Herd’s play as Marshall shot 50.9 percent from the floor (29-of-57) and 50 percent (16-of-32) from 3-point range in handing Louisiana Tech its first home loss of the season. The Bulldogs had been 15-0 before Thursday night’s loss to the Herd.

Elmore finished with one of his top shooting performances of the season, going 10-of-17 from the floor, including a 5-of-10 performance from 3-point range, to finish with 34 points while adding seven assists and six rebounds in the win.

And, when Louisiana Tech made its run late, Elmore had the legs to answer, scoring 10 straight Marshall points over a three-minute stretch that helped the Herd put the game away.

“I honestly think that was the best game we’ve played for 40 minutes all year,” Elmore said. “We pushed the ball on offense and we were a lot more efficient. As a whole, our game was better. Getting that time off gave us a chance to relax. Focus-wise, everyone was attentive to the details. Hopefully we can carry that over going forward.”

Just like Marshall traveled to Ruston, Louisiana, two days ahead of its game with Louisiana Tech, the Herd is following suit with its final road game of the regular season, which is Sunday’s 4 p.m. contest at North Texas in Denton, Texas.

On Friday, Marshall’s team traveled by bus from Ruston to Denton, arriving around 5:30 p.m. and taking the rest of the evening off. The team will practice on Saturday in anticipation for Sunday’s game at the Super Pit.

Marshall played at the Super Pit previously this season and it was a game that those with the Herd would like to forget. Offensively, Marshall never got into a rhythm, losing 78-51 in a game that matched their lowest point output of the year.

Elmore said that loss is a distant memory and the Herd is focused on moving to 2-0 in bonus play before coming home for its final two regular-season contests next week prior to the Conference USA tournament, which runs March 13-16 in Frisco, Texas.

“100 percent focused forward,” Elmore said. “It’s a new season and clean slate.”

Conference USA men’s basketball

MARSHALL (15-13, 8-7 C-USA) AT NORTH TEXAS (20-9, 8-8 C-USA)

WHEN: 4 p.m., Sunday

WHERE: Super Pit (10,500)

TV: Stadium

RADIO: WRVC 930-AM and 94.1-FM; WDGG 93.7-FM