"I feel good (about today), we took a step forward," said head coach Ron Jirsa after the win. "Our (overall) goal is to prepare for the first game, goal one today was to win. Most likely, this was a step forward on defense. We were not smooth on offense but our hard work on defense (at practice) may be the reason."
Neither team scored until nearly two minutes had run off the clock in the first half. Senior forward Marvin Black gave Marshall a lead that it would never surrender or even be seriously challenged by the touring team. The shooting percentages in the first half were, in a word, ugly. Marshall shot 13-of-33 (39 percent) from the field and only 3-of-13 from the three-point stripe (23 percent). Even the foul line was no help to the Herd as they only made one shot of four in the opening 20 minutes.
Fortunately, due to good defense by Marshall and blocking out on the rebounds to prevent offensive put-backs by GT Express, the Herd would hold the Canadians to only 7-of-20 in the first half (23 percent). "Reounds and defense will win us games," said junior guard Ronnie Dawn, who had 10 points off the bench. "Until the offense is there, rebounding and defense give us a chance to win when the shots will not fall. In the second half, we hit some shots and got our offense going."
Marshall began to pound the ball inside in the second half and, after 14 turnovers in the first half, limited its turnovers to just four in the second 20 minutes. LaVar Carter, Ardo Armpalu, Marvin Black, Mark Patton, Eric Smith and David Anderson, the MU "big" men, scored 35 of their 53 points in the second half of the game as Marshall shot 22-of-36 (61 percent). GT Express attempted to follow Marshall's lead by getting 10 points in the second half from former Cal State-Bakersfield center, 6'8" Toshiro Germany who finished with 12 points. GT Express improved to 45 percent shooting in the second half as both teams were less ragged and played with some tempo.
David Anderson drove the lane during the first half of Marshall's exhibition win over Canada-based GT Express.
Conditioning and substitution also played a part in keeping the Marshall team fresh for 40 minutes. With the bench reduced to only 11 players due to walk-on guard Adam Zimmerman being ineligible until the end of the semester, only point guard A.W. Hamilton (33 minutes) played more than 22 minutes in the game. "The coaches keep switching back and forth and it makes the game easier," said senior forward David Anderson who scored a game-leading 15 points in only 16 minutes of action. Anderson also led Marshall in rebounds with six.
"Some guys get mad when they go out but I guess (the coaches) are trying to save our energy," Anderson added. "We work hard but it doesn't feel like we are working hard. You still have energy late in the game and our legs stay fresh all game."
Also scoring in double figures for Marshall was junior college forward Eric Smith, who had 11 points in the second half for 13 points total. He hit his first three-pointer of the year in the contest. Carter added eight points, six in the second half, and Hamilton scored six points, dished nine assists and grabbed five boards in the game. Also leading GT Express with 12 points, along with Germany, was former Western Illinois guard Quentin Mitchell. Germany led both teams with eight boards.
Marshall will get back to practice on Monday as they prepare for the opening game this Friday night at the special start time of 8:00 p.m. in the Cam Henderson Center arena. The Herd will host the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks, a NCAA tournament team out of the Colonial Athletic Conference for three of the last four years. UNCW returns two starters from last year's 24-7 team: 6'7" forward Anthony Terrell, who averaged seven points and five rebounds per game; and 6'3" guard John Goldsberry, who averaged five points and three and one-half assists per game. The Seahawks are coached by Brad Brownell, who is beginning his second season at the helm of the UNCW program.
Friday will be a full day of basketball in the Henderson Center, as the Marshall women's team will also open their season with the "Fifth-Third Bank MU Classic." Game one, at 3:00 p.m., will feature Murray State and High Point. Marshall will start at 5:30 p.m. with a first-ever game with the Bears of Morgan State of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The MU men then tipoff against UNCW at 8:00 p.m. to complete the triple-header of hoops. Marshall's men will also be home to long-time rival Morehead State University on Saturday, November 29, at the normal starting time of 7:00 p.m.