Marshall Blown Out By UTEP, 88-64

"They played great," said Thundering Herd coach Ron Jirsa of the UTEP Miners. That statement sums up a night the Herd would just as soon put behind them, as Marshall shot a season-worst 31.8 percent from the field and fell by a season-worst total points of minus-24 in an 88-64 loss at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas. MU is 5-10, 0-2 in Conference USA while UTEP is 10-6/2-0 in league play.

But UTEP has played both of its C-USA games at home, while Marshall has had to travel to two of the best teams in the league - the 1-0, No. 18-ranked Memphis Tigers and 2-0 Miners. UTEP, while young with two sophomores and two freshmen in the starting lineup, has had the luxury of playing 12 of its first 16 games in the Haskins Center, where they are 8-4 and have won 12 straight conference games back to its final year in the WAC. UTEP was 7-0 at home in C-USA last year.

The Herd, on the other hand, has been away from the Cam Henderson Center for nine of 15 games. That has included the 12-hour trip to the Great Alaska Shootout and the 12-hour day to get to El Paso, the furthest trip for the Marshall team in C-USA. Marshall is 1-8 away from Huntington, but 4-2 so far at home. Four of the next six games will be at the Henderson Center, starting with Central Florida this Saturday at 7:00 p.m. In fact, the Herd will play four of the next five C-USA games at home, with only a Sunday matinee at Tulane on Jan. 20, and also just have to travel 45 minutes to battle West Virginia in Charleston in the Chesapeake Energy Capital Classic on Jan. 24.

Tre Whitted and Mark Dorris, shown in the win against Ohio, gave the Herd 20 and eight points, respectively, in the 88-64 loss at UTEP Wednesday night. photo by Greg Perry/Herd Insider staff

While Tre Whitted had a great night shooting (6-of-10, 4-of-7 from three and 4-of-4 from the free throw line), his team shot only 21-of-66, 32 percent, and just 7-of-24 from three, only 29 percent. Meanwhile, UTEP hit nearly 50 percent, 31-of-66, and 10-for-23 from three, 44 percent. Jirsa said his team just could not press the Miners as they hoped. "It's the first team we could not press," said Jirsa. "They shot well when they broke pressure and attacked us off the dribble. Their crowd really did a great job of getting into the game." The attendance was 9,460. That's the third-best of the year for UTEP, behind over 11,000 for Texas Tech and 10,000-plus for nearby rival New Mexico State.

But while the Miners young players stepped up in the victory, a positive sign for the Herd was the play of the two freshmen big men for Marshall. Robbie Jackson, coming off his worst game of the year (0-3 field goal, 0-4 free throw) near his home of Aberdeen, Md. against George Washington, responded with a career night against UTEP. He scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds and would have probably had a first double-double if the coaching staff had not wanted to get Jesse Oglesby some playing time in the blowout. "Robbie could have had 20 points, easily," said Jirsa. "He played much better and showed some stamina tonight." MU's other frosh, Tyler Wilkerson, who had not played in the last two games, stepped up with a career night as well.

Wilkerson had a career best for both points, with four (on 2-of-5 shooting), and also for rebounds with five. In 14 minutes, Wilkerson also had two blocks, an assist and one steal. His previous best was two points and three rebounds at Morehead State, but that was the last game he scored in - a span of six games without a point and not playing against Ohio or GW. "Tyler was playing well," said Jirsa. "He took a business-like approach to this game and we want to see that every night." Jirsa knows his team is looking forward to returning home for a stretch. "It's the travel. We've still got a long trip home tommorrow. We have to get our rest tonight, get back to school tommorrow and do the things that get the job done (on the court). UCF will be pointing towards this game after we beat them twice last year." The Knights are 11-4, 0-1 in Conference USA, after falling Wednesday night in Birmingham, Ala. to UAB, 74-64 in overtime. Josh Peppers had 20 points for the Golden Knights.

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