Kentucky State, a Division II team that returned five starters, kept the game tight from start to finish. Mattie Jones, KSU's 6-foot-3 center, led all scorers on the night with 25 points. She hit 12-of-15 shots from the field and also had 13 rebounds. But she was nearly matched by the Thundering Herd's 6-foot-1 freshman forward, Tynikki Crook, who also had 13 rebounds and led Marshall in scoring with 15 points. Marshall also got double-figure scoring from junior college transfer Baker, who scored on the opening tip and ended the night with 13 points on just 5-of-14 shooting.
Casey Baker and Alyssa Hammond applied pressure to Kentucky State's Kiarra Morgan during the first of of Marshall's 72-63 exhibition win. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
"It was an exhibition game," said Royce Chadwick of the uneven effort against Kentucky State. "Rag-tag in a lot of capacities, but I think the style both teams want to play make it that way. We did some things well, showing flashes for 35 seconds of the team we can be, then flashes for the next 25 that we are really rusty and we have a lot of new players." Marshall shot only 19-of-37 at the free-throw line, just 51.4 percent, and hit only 25-of-73 from the floor, just 34.2 percent. The second half shooting was even worse than the overall, as MU managed to hit just 9-of-32, 28.1 percent, after opening with a 39 percent first half (16-for-41). The Herd out-rebounded K-State by only three, 51 to 48.
"We have some people who have never worn a Thundering Herd uniform before," said Chadwick, "and they will get better with every game we play." Newcomers included Baker, Crook, senior point guard Kizzy Hart (six points, four rebounds and two assists), freshman Rebecca Bays, junior Nicci Miller (two rebounds and two assists) and junior Sophie Lenard (three points and two rebounds). "I was very excited about our new players and the things they can bring us," said Chadwick.
"I was nervous at first," said Crook, a true freshman who averaged 15 points and 13 rebounds per game at Detroit's John J. Pershing H.S. "Once I got on the floor, I tried to play like it was just another game, not my first game(at Marshall)." Defending Jones was a real education in Crook's first action as a member of the Herd. "Oh yeah, she was real good. But that will only make me a better player."
Marshall's Megan Samis put up a shot over Kentucky State's Mattie Jones (52) during The Herd's 72-63 exhibition win on Wednesday evening in Huntington. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Marshall did some good things, like point guard play by Hart and junior Meg Withrow, who played last season with a separated shoulder that had to be shot up every game. "I thought Kizzy and Meg did a good job at the point, of getting us into the offense," said Chadwick. The Herd also did a good job of taking care of the ball against an athletic K-State team, committing just 11 turnovers while grabbing 25 takeaways on the night. Baker also played some point, and Chadwick said they had her all over the floor position-wise. She led the team with four assists and six steals.
Baker was glad to see Herd fans and to finally play someone else. "We have been practicing...forever," said the junior from Lincoln Trail Community College in Illinois, where she had 346 career assists and 275 career steals in two seasons. "I was really exciting to play a game, in front of our crowd and our boosters, who have been there for us." Baker scored the first points of the game. "That really settled me down."
For Kentucky State, Jessica Vaughn had 13 points as did Cortney Matthewis. Kirarra Morgan added 10 rebounds and eight points. Marshall also had six points from Melody Hudson, Chantelle Handy and Hart, while Alyssa Hammond added eight points. Baker had eight rebounds, while Hudson had six. Crook blocked a shot and Withrow and Crook each had two steals. The Herd is back in action on Sunday at 6 p.m. for exhibition No. 2, when Marshall hosts West Virginia Wesleyan. It follows MU Senior Day Sunday at 1 p.m. for both women's soccer at Sam Hood Field and volleyball in the Henderson Center. Both of those teams also play Friday night at 7 p.m., while men's soccer has Senior Night Saturday at 7 p.m. at Hood Field.