AP NEWS

Herd victory doesn’t taste as sweet as it should

February 21, 2019

Anytime Marshall University wins a men’s basketball game I’m usually not in a foul mood.

Usually.

Except, that is, for the Thundering Herd’s most recent win over Middle Tennessee, 98-93, Saturday in Cam Henderson Center.

Victory or no victory, it did indeed leave a foul taste in my mouth.

That’s because the officiating crew of Barry Mathis, Peter Juzenas and Kelly Davis turned the contest into a whistle-fest. This trio of officials called a combined 50 fouls in 40 minutes of stop-n-go action.

That averages to one foul being called every 48 seconds.

Every 48 seconds!

I’ve been in bumper-to-bumper rush-hour traffic that didn’t have that much stopping and going.

That absurdity led to a combined 66 foul shots. But get this, it also led to an amazing 55 made free throws. Marshall was 33 of 40 (82.5 percent) from the foul line while Middle Tennessee was 22 of 26 (84.6).

Of course, that’s including the technical foul Marshall head coach Danny D’Antoni was assessed for simply waving his hand at an official with a dismissive gesture as he turned and walked away.

That led to my perfectly innocent question during D’Antoni’s post-game press conference.

How tough is it to coach in a game that was so dominated by fouls?

“You are trying to set me up,” replied a smiling D’Antoni. “You know, I’m having a good night. They’ll end up daggone fining me if I say what I think.”

But there were 50 fouls called in this game, I persisted.

“Yeah, I know,” said D’Antoni. “That’s all I can say. Good question. Impossible to answer. I was a bad student in school. The hard questions, I flunked.”

Sensing an impasse, I decided to lighten the mood.

“Were you a good foul shooter?” I asked convivially.

“I was a pretty good foul shooter,” answered D’Antoni. “I can beat you, I know that.”

He didn’t throw down much of a gantlet.

“Well, that’s no contest,” I replied.

“I know that,” said D’Antoni with a grin. “Hey, I don’t bet unless I know I’m going to win.”

After the “Danny & Chuck Show” ended, Marshall players took the dais. That afforded the opportunity to ask the question D’Antoni wouldn’t answer.

Hey, Jon Elmore, how tough is to play in a game that is so dominated by fouls?

“I mean, I like it because I was getting to the free throw line quite a bit,” said Elmore, who was 11-for-11. “We’ve got good shooters. If you call the game tight, which we like, we shoot a lot of free throws. We’ve got good free throw shooters. That’s the way we play.

“We don’t have the biggest bodies. We’re not the most athletic. If guys are kind of riding you and fouling you on the dribble — stuff like that — and the refs do a good job like they did, it puts us at an advantage, in my opinion, because that’s how we play.

“We’re more of a finesse team than a power team, so when teams ride us and grab us, it’s hard to play. So, I thought they did a good job. It was to our benefit.” Daggone it, he had a point.

Only three C-USA schools have made more foul shots than Marshall (382). And only Charlotte’s Jon Davis (151-174) has scored more points at the foul line than Elmore (128-163).

So, MU actually likes that foul taste.

Silly me.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.