Marshall is facing a ‘must win’ situation
Forget the wall.
The Marshall Thundering Herd’s back is against the rim.
After losing four of its last five Conference USA games following a 5-0 start, Marshall’s league record has fallen to 6-4.
That’s why the Herd can’t afford another loss when it takes on second-place North Texas (7-3) at 8 p.m. Thursday in The Super Pit at Denton, Texas.
Simply put, this is a “must” win. And guess what. Marshall’s players realize it. Jannson Williams is a prime example.
Hey, Jannson, must win?
“Must win,” repeated the 6-foot-9 sophomore forward emphatically. “I don’t like to say that, but it’s reality. And I’m a realist. We’ve got to win. We’ve got to do better.
“I think we can do it. Actually, I know we can do it. Same thing happened last year. We had to win. We were underdogs. But we performed well as underdogs.
“We get a lead, but we’re not good at holding it. We’re good at achieving it. We’re good at going and getting it.”
That’s why the Herd is embracing the underdog role.
“We have,” said Williams. “I like it. I like it better than holding a title that we’re not used to holding. We’re better at going and getting it ... when it matters.”
It matters now, starting with North Texas.
“We’re going in with the mindset that it’s a must win,” said senior point guard Jon Elmore. “We’ve kind of had some games slip from our grasp here these past few games, but we’re going in with the mindset that we’ve got to win this one. Every game going forward is huge, but we’ve got to take it one game at a time.”
That realization forces the Herd to alter some of its preconceived mindsets.
“There’s no more room for error,” said Elmore. “We’ve had a couple of mishaps these past few games down the stretch with miscommunications, fatigue, a couple of missed shots — stuff like that.
“We’ve got to piece it all together. There’s not a whole lot of road left to drive on, so we’ve got to make the most of it and take one game at a time and give it our best shot.”
Marshall defeated North Texas, 74-73, in The Super Pit in 2017-18, thanks to C.J. Burks going coastto-coast to score on a game-winning layup with three seconds remaining.
So, is The Super Pit a tough place to play? Yes and no. North Texas is averaging only 3,000 fans this season in the 10,500-seat facility. Yet, it’s still a road game.
“Anytime you go on the road it’s tough to win a game, especially in conference play,” said Elmore. “But I like our chances. They (North Texas) kind of do it by committee. They’ve got a lot of guys that average 10 points. I think they have five or six guys that average quite a few points.”
Elmore is correct.
The Mean Green actually has six players averaging double figures, ranging from do-it-all junior point guard Ryan Woolridge’s 12.4 points to 6-1 junior guard Jorden Duffy’s 10.4 point-average. The only player among those six standing more than 6-3 is 6-9 sophomore forward Zachary Simmons, who averages 10.7 points and 6.3 rebounds.
“I think they are actually one of the smaller teams in the conference,” said Elmore. “But they’re athletic, they’re quick, they push the ball and they’ve got good guards and wings.”
It’s a must win.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.