Thundering Herd men struggling to be a ‘we’ instead of a ‘me’
HUNTINGTON - The headline on Duquesne University’s website (www.goduquesne.com) said, “Dukes scorch Marshall.”
Marshall University men’s basketball head coach Dan D’Antoni basically scorched his team too after Duquesne’s 93-82 victory Wednesday night at the Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh. In D’Antoni’s post-game radio interview he said it was about the maddest he’s been on the sideline. And, he’s been on a lot of them.
D’Antoni said he had a man he’d only identify as “Mark” speak to the team before the season. The speaker said the biggest problem Marshall would have coming off a Conference USA championship season would be turning into a “me” team and not a “we” team.
Marshall (5-3) began the season as a “we” team and won its first four games, but regressed into a “me” team that lost three of its last four games, D’Antoni said.
Back at home before Thursday’s practice D’Antoni said, “I don’t like our approach to the game. The Ohio game was not enough energy. This game (Duquesne) we were sloppy. We missed free throws at inopportune times. Silly turnovers at inopportune times. To me it’s all about our chemistry and our approach. The rhythm of our team right now is not what it’s supposed to be.”
D’Antoni said in his radio interview the “me” problem is people who stray away from the system and attempt to make solo plays. He has good players, but not the caliber of athlete who can out-quick people or take them off the first bounce, D’Antoni said.
He borrowed one of his pet phrases about the “athletic ball” to make his point.
“They’ve got to make the ball athletic so they can be basketball players,” he said. “We did it when we first started this year, rolled off about three or four victories, then it’s like “Mark” said, the danger of winning a championship is coming back as a ‘me’ instead of a ‘we.’ We somehow went into the “me’ thing.”
D’Antoni said he would make it perfectly clear to every person on the team that they play for Marshall. Not for headlines, not for their parents, not for their friends or anybody else. Marshall.
“I’ve got great hope that’s going to happen,” he said.
It needs to happen soon because Marshall has a Saturday home game against the Toledo Rockets (8-1) and a Monday game at home against Morehead State (3-5) before going away from home for five games at Akron, Texas A&M and No. 4 Virginia before beginning conference play at Old Dominion and Charlotte.
Marshall’s missed opportunities at Duquesne were many and included Jon Elmore missing two free throws on one trip to the line. C.J. Burks missing the first end of a one-and-one free throw chance, Taeveion Kinsey missing a layup. Darius George not blocking out for an offensive rebound and Mikel Beyers throwing a pass into the back-court for a turnover.
Elmore, a senior point guard leading the Thundering Herd scoring with a 20.3 average, did not have a good game, D’Antoni said. Elmore scored 12, but was 2-for-11 shooting from the field and 1-for-3 on 3-point shots. Burks (19.8 average) is another senior guard who popped in 26 points, but had five turnovers.
“It changes the game,” D’Antoni said about blown opportunities. “Instead of being up or ahead, you’re down and desperate. There’s a fine line between winning and losing. Even the way we play, a 20-point game is a fine line.
“It’s a long way to go, but let’s get this stuff straight before we get to the conference.”
Senior Rondale Watson, a 6-foot-4 senior, had 12 points in his first start this season as Marshall went with a smaller lineup to get more speed on the court. Big Iran Bennett (6-9, 330 pounds) came off the bench for the first time. The redshirt freshman didn’t score, but had four rebounds and two blocked shots in 15 minutes.
D’Antoni said the toughest non-conference schedule in his five seasons continues Saturday with Toledo’s visit.
“We’ve lost three games against three good teams,” he said. “Really good teams. We lost to Maryland, Ohio and this team.”
Toledo, a former Herd opponent in the Mid-American Conference, rolls into town on a six-game win streak against Florida Gulf Coast, Louisiana, UC Irvine, North Alabama, Cleveland State and Detroit Mercy. The Rockets took their only loss at Wright State.
The Rockets blasted Detroit Mercy in a Wednesday home game, 101-57.
Next game: Toledo (8-1) at Marshall (5-3)
2:30 p.m. Saturday, Cam Henderson Center, Huntington
Radio: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM, WMUL 88.1-FM