GAME NOTES: The Marshall Thundering Herd continue to search for their first win outside of West Virginia as they take on the Texas-El Paso Miners in a Conference USA matchup at the Don Haskins Center.
Marshall fell to 0-7 on the road on Thursday when it dropped a 90-81 decision to Texas-San Antonio on the C-USA's opening night. The Thundering Herd have lost four of their last five games to drop to a 6-10 overall record. Coach Tom Herrion's team will return to Huntington to host North Texas after facing the Miners. Due to a handful of departures and the addition of nine newcomers, Marshall has adopted a new style of play this season. It has the third highest scoring average among C-USA schools at 81.9 ppg and the second worst scoring defense mark in the 16-team league at 76.3 ppg.
Tim Floyd's Miners built up some momentum heading into the new year with five straight wins to close out their December schedule. However, their winning streak came to an end on Thursday as they were defeated 73-68 by Charlotte at home. UTEP was playing its first game without three players, including leading scorer McKenzie Moore, who were dismissed from the team for illegal sports betting. The downgraded lineup was outrebounded by the 49ers, 41-27, and shot a collective 6-of-24 from beyond the arc on Thursday.
This will be the 11th meeting in history between Marshall and UTEP. The Miners own an 8-2 all-time series edge thanks to their 74-63 win over the Herd last season on Jan. 12 in El Paso.
The Herd's inability to get stops at the defensive end of the floor was apparent in their last outing. They allowed UTSA, which averages only 71 ppg, to tally 90 points on 56.6 percent shooting from the floor including a 7-of-9 mark from behind the 3-point line. Freshman guard Kareem Canty did his best to lead Marshall, netting 26 points on 9-of-22 shooting from the field. Shawn Smith added 16 points off the bench, but the team combined to make only 6- of-24 from 3-point range. Canty is posting 17 ppg to go along with a C-USA leading 6.7 apg. Rookie forward Ryan Taylor is second among active players at 13.2 ppg.
The Miners are ranked 11th in the C-USA in scoring at 69.9 ppg, although they are connecting on just under 45 percent of their field goal tries. They may struggle to continue to produce at that rate going forward without Moore. Luckily for Floyd, his squad has proven it can win without scoring a great deal of points due to its tremendous play on the defensive end of the court. UTEP is one of the top defensive teams among mid-major schools, allowing only 65.7 ppg. When it needs offense, it will turn to Julian Washburn (11.7 ppg), John Bohannon (10.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and Vince Hunter (9.9 ppg, 6.5 ppg). Bohannon posted 23 points, eight rebounds, six assists and rejected two shots in the loss to Charlotte, while Washburn tallied 19 points. C.J. Cooper went 2-of-13 from the floor, but could be dangerous from long range if he can find his shooting touch.
UTEP should have no trouble bouncing back against the Herd. The Miners' slower style of play and ability to get easy buckets on the interior will play a huge factor against Marshall, which gets frustrated easily and has a much smaller front line. Canty will need a few of his teammates to provide assistance as lifting the Herd over UTEP on the road is too much to ask of one player.
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