Marshall is playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation according to various RPI sites on the internet - anywhere from fifth to 11th toughest in the nation - and opened the year in league play with the toughest in Conference USA: at No. 18 Memphis, at 11-7 UTEP and at home against 13-4 Central Florida. Tulsa came in 12-3 on the season and 2-0 in C-USA, but all of those 12 wins were at home, including the two conference games. The Herd made TU uncomfortable right from the start, jumping to a six point lead and never trailing by more than four in the first half. Marshall led 30-25 at the break, holding Tulsa to 0-for-5 from three and just 35 percent from the field (9-of-26). "Defense is all about attitude," said Mark Dorris, who led the Herd with his first career double-double with 11 rebounds and 17 points. "Same with rebounding. Coach had a great plan tonight, mixing the times we pressed and when we didn't and we kept Tulsa guessing throughout the night."
Markel Humphrey battled with Tulsa's Calvin Walls for a rebound in the second half.. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Marshall also out-rebounded Tulsa, a team that was plus-eight on the glass for the season, by 46-to-43 on the night, getting 15 points each from Travis Aikens, who added eight rebounds, and Markel Humphrey, who had seven boards. "We played tough defense all night," said Ron Jirsa. "We didn't press as much early, then used it later in the game. Our players had a great defensive effort in both halves and we need to have contributions from all of them, not just a few." That was exactly what Jirsa got from his center position in the game, as Robbie Jackson, Jean Francois Bro Grebe and Tyler Wilkerson all finished the night with four fouls, but combined for 12 rebounds and 11 points in a combined 39 minutes of action. Jackson had five rebounds, three points, an assist and a block; Bro Grebe had five points, three rebounds, an assist and a block; and Wilkerson, in his third consecutive good outing for the Herd, had three points, four rebounds and a blocked shot.
Robbie Jackson put up a shot over Tulsa's Jamel McLean.. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
For the first time this season, Marshall won both the first half and the second half, 35-28 in the latter, in the 65-53 win. Under Ron Jirsa, the Herd is 12-5 when holding opponents to 60 points or less. In the last two seasons, however, that number is 8-1 and the Herd is 3-0 this season, holding Virginia Tech to 58, Ohio to 60 and Tulsa to 53. Only Oklahoma and Arkansas have held TU to under 60 points, both of those games being road losses. Tulsa also lost 65-63 at North Texas and is now 0-4 away from Reynolds Center in Tulsa, Okla. Marshall had to have a good defensive effort, as the Herd shot just 29 percent (5-of-17) from three - with Dorris hitting 4-of-five - and just 60 percent (18-for-30) at the free throw line. Tulsa also shot 60 percent at the line, way under its 74.4 season free throw percentage.
Marshall will be on the road to New Orleans, La. this Saturday, when the Herd will face Tulane in Fogleman Arena. It was the place where Marshall hit only 24 percent last year on the way to being routed 61-36 by the Green Wave, the lowest Marshall point total since 1947-48 when the Herd of Cam Henderson scored just 23 versus San Diego State in the final game of an eight-game road trip to the Helms Foundation Los Angeles Invitational (which Marshall won, beating Syracuse in the finals). "We are the kind of team that doesn't forget things," said Dorris of last year's poor showing at Tulane. "We want to go down and play like we are capable of this Saturday." Game time is 8:30 p.m. Eastern/7:30 p.m. Central time, on WRVC 930 AM and WDGG, 93.7 FM "The Dawg," in Huntington and on the Thundering Herd/ISP Sports Network. Marshall will stay in the Mountain State for the next four games after Tulane, including the Chesapeake Energy Capital Classic with West Virginia on Wednesday, Jan. 24. The women's game tips at 5:30 p.m. (on WRVC AM) and the men at 8 p.m. on WDGG/TH-ISP Sports Network. MU is then home for C-USA games with Houston, Jan. 27, East Carolina, Jan. 31, and UAB on Feb. 3, a day-night double-header with the women's team, who play the Blazers at 3 p.m. while the men tip at 7 p.m.