Gore, Porter lead surge for Thundering Herd women
HUNTINGTON — As Marshall University women’s basketball players walked out of a news conference Thursday night following a victory over North Texas, senior guard Shayna Gore became a little agitated about a topic that came up.
Gore was amped up about Marshall still trying to earn respect despite being 14-9 overall and 8-2 in Conference USA.
Senior guard Taylor Porter threw her arm around Gore’s shoulder and her motherly instinct kicked in.
“Shhh, Shayna,” Porter said with a smile as they walked down the hallway. “It’s going to be OK. One day at a time.”
Gore is ranked second in C-USA scoring with 19.3 per game and the Logan, West Virginia, native enters a noon Saturday game against league-leading Rice (19-3, 10-0) in Cam Henderson Center as one of the league’s hottest players.
Last week, Gore took over in the second half and overtime, scoring 31 points to lead Marshall back from a double-digit deficit in a 79-72 win at UTSA. Then, she followed that with one of her better all-around performances of the season, scoring 25 points with nine assists, five rebounds and four steals Thursday in a 67-55 home win over North Texas.
“I give T.P. (Porter) credit for some of the player I am because I don’t think I’d be where I am at without T.P. being my teammate — and that goes for my other teammates,” Gore said. “Everybody probably knows that I do tend to lose my head sometimes when I’m out there and she’s the first one to come to me and tell me to pick my head up.
“She’ll say some other stuff that I can’t say out loud, but it works. She’s in my ear 24/7, but it gets me out of my own head and makes me focus on my teammates more.”
Porter is in the top 20 in the league in scoring, averaging 11.8 points, but the Louisa, Kentucky, native’s leadership and calming influence she brings to the floor is every bit as important as scoring.
With the younger nucleus of the team looking to Gore and Porter for guidance, Porter’s ability to keep the team balanced emotionally has helped them get through some tough games.
Porter’s ability to take on the leadership role from an emotional standpoint has also allowed Gore to focus more on the scoring load.
Part of the beauty of their relationship is the players aren’t that different in demeanor. Porter might be the calming influence, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t similar to Gore in their approach.
Both are fiery competitors that grew up in small towns scrapping for every inch to prove they belong, and they will stop at nothing attempting to finish on top and prove doubters wrong.
They constantly butted heads as younger players, but as their relationship grew they learned what communication tactics work and are using that to drive each other.
“Now, we do,” Porter said, smiling. “It wasn’t like that all the time. It was kind of a like a fight when we would talk to each other. Now, we know each other and we know how we are wired, so we just take it as we go.”
Marshall head coach Tony Kemper said the team’s growth is predicated on the ability and leadership of the senior guards.
“They’ve both grown up a lot,” Kemper said. “That’s a big part of it. She (Porter) has done a great job of knowing how to push people’s buttons and then (Shayna) is allowing people to talk her off that ledge.”
The common characteristic that helped Gore and Porter forge their bond is their love for winning. That bond was strengthened prior to the season when the Herd was picked to finish 13th among 14 C-USA teams in the preseason poll.
“I believe we were picked in the spot that we deserved to be picked in, and then we’ve handled it the way you are supposed to handle it,” Kemper said. “I don’t think anybody slighted us by putting us where they put us, and I think all of our team got in a little huddle and said, ‘OK, now we can live with that, but we don’t want to live with that anymore.’”
Even with the current success, the two seniors carry the chip on their shoulders of seeking respect in C-USA. That’s something they could go a long way toward earning Saturday against the Rice Owls.
Kemper did not mince words about how good the Owls are.
“Saturday, if you aren’t doing anything in Huntington, you need to be in the Henderson Center at 12 o’clock on Saturday,” Kemper said. “Rice is tremendous, tremendous. It’s going to take a great, great effort for us to have a shot. But we’re excited about it, we’re excited about the things we’ve done.”
Rice notched its 12th straight victory Thursday at Western Kentucky, 68-46. The Owls are ahead of Middle Tennessee (9-1) in the conference standings with Marshall and Western Kentucky tied for third place.
C-USA Preseason Player of the Year selection Erica Ogwumike, a junior guard, leads Rice with a 16.5 scoring average and leads C-USA with 11.0 rebounds. Six-foot-9 sophomore Nancy Mulkey averages 12.5 points and 6.1 rebounds with 54 blocked shots.
RICE (19-3, 10-0) at MARSHALL (14-9, 8-2)
When: Noon Saturday
Where: Cam Henderson Center, Huntington
Radio: WMUL 88.1-FM