Greg White: MAC Will Be A War This Year

Senior guard Tamar Slay just shook his head in disbelief after Marshall's heartbreaking 73-70 loss to Kent State Saturday. Slay led a Thundering Herd three point shooting tandem to bring Marshall back from a 12-point halftime deficit to tie the game with 19 seconds left.

Kent State guard and All Mid-American Conference selection Trevor Huffman missed an inside jumper with two seconds left that would have sealed the game for the Golden Flashes. Junior college transfer Richard Wilson came down with the rebound and was called for traveling with 0.7 seconds left on the clock.

On the ensuing inbounds play, Kent guard Demetric Shaw found a wide-open Huffman, who sank a buzzer-beater three to win the game.

"We are going to see games like that every night in this league," Slay said. "That is MAC basketball at its best. It is a dog fight every night."

The MAC is rated by many college basketball analysts as on of the best mid-major conferences in the nation. ESPN analyst Dick Vitale has said on numerous occasions that the MAC is one of the most underrated conferences.

"No one is going to run the table in this league," Marshall coach Greg White said. "We have 15 tough MAC games to go and we can't throw in the towel after a heartbreaker like this one."

Freshman guard Ronny Dawn received probably his toughest task to date just before tip-off Saturday. Dawn was assigned the task of guarding Huffman, but later relinquished the task to the more experienced Slay. Huffman scored 10 of his 21 points in the first 10 minutes of the game with Dawn guarding him.

"He just started to come off a bunch of screens and started pouring in the shots," Dawn said. "Slay came over and said, 'I'll take over. He isn't going to light it up in our house.'

MU guard Ronny Dawn had a tough time guarding Kent State's Trevor Huffman. Photo by Rick Haye for Herd Insider

"I have never seen a guard come off screens like that. It was a lot tougher than I expected it (guarding Huffman) to be."

After Slay took over, Huffman only hit one more field goal in the first half.

"The Thundering Herd shot only 38 percent in the first half, but found its rhythm in the second half. Marshall connected on 10 of 15 three-point field goals and 16-26 field goal attempts.

"To our credit, we hit some amazing shots," White said. "When you shoot 49 percent for the entire game and can't come away with a win, that tells you something about this league."

Marshall got some strong play from forward William 'Pete' Butler off the bench. Butler scored 10 points and grabbed three rebounds. Wilson also added two points and two assists from the bench.

The Thundering Herd's depth will become a key factor now that MAC play has started. Junior Monty Wright and Butler still must sit out two more games as part of their NCAA suspensions.

Blackshear played in his third game Saturday after sitting out one full year as part of the NCAA's transfer rules. Blackshear is averaging 14.3 points per game for the Thundering Herd.

"Ronny and Ronald are getting better," White said. "They are going to be big- time players for us. Any time you have depth it helps giving our starters rest. Ronald is a good three-point shooter that can play inside the three-point line. We need him to do that."

"Kent played its fourth game in eight days Saturday, while Marshall was playing in its second game in eight days. "They were in a rhythm," Blackshear said. "If we would have played that many games in that many days we probably would have been in a rhythm too. It just didn't work out that way."

Marshall (7-5, 2-1 MAC) has a month where it faces five of the best teams in the conference in Ball State, Central Michigan, Miami, Toledo and red-hot Buffalo. "A lot of those teams' records don't really reflect how good of a team they really are," Slay said. "Central Michigan is 3-6, but they are still one of the best teams in the league."

The Thundering Herd travels to Oxford, Ohio Wednesday to take on Miami (Ohio). Miami defeated No. 11 Boston College earlier in the season. "We are going to have to be ready for them because they will be ready for us," Blackshear said. "We can't focus too much on this loss. I already put it in the past and am now focusing on Miami."

Marshall begins February with a date in the ever-so-dangerous Convocation Center in Athens against Ohio University. The Thundering Herd hasn't beaten the Bobcats in Athens in its last three tries.

"There are several good players and teams in this league," White said. "This won't be the last time we see a team like this."

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