"We felt like we improved in rebounding and three-point shooting in the off-season," said head coach Royce Chadwick, who started his eighth season at the helm for the Herd. "We went after that type of recruit. Obviously, the rebounding was there (today) and the three-point shooting. It took us a while to get (going) and we were better in the second half than the first. We were full of adrenaline and full of full of first game jitters."
Chadwick started his five returning players, and received double-digit scoring from Crook, Chantelle Handy and Casey Baker. Both of the latter scored 12 points. Marshall dominated the glass in the game with the 21-rebound edge, but was most dominate on the offensive glass. The Herd pulled down 23 on the offensive glass and held Exodus to just three offensive rebounds in the game.
Marshall's Casey Baker, shown last season, had 12 points in the Herd's exhibition win over Exodus All-Stars, 78-41. file photo, Greg Perry/Herd Insider
Chadwick was also very happy with the guard play, as Marshall dished 22 assists on 31 field goals, only turned the ball over five times and had eight steals while forcing 18 turnovers by the All-Stars, a collection of former collegiate players. "I was very happy with the way our point guards set the offense, so I was very happy to see that today," said Chadwick. "We haven't been that good in that area in practice."
Chadwick blended the new players, both true freshmen, red-shirts and jucos into the game with the returning players and, until late in the game, did not throw a team of five new players on the court. The chemistry, said Chadwick, was good for just two weeks of practice since October 17th start date.
"It was better than I expected," said the coach, who last year won his 500th career victory and 100th win at Marshall as the Herd was 17-16 (fifth straight year with a non-losing season). "I thought our new players intergrated themselves very well. Our older girls did a good job of leading by example. I still want to see what happens when we are down 14-2 instead of up 14-2, like today." Exodus took its final lead of the game at the 15:26 mark of the first half at 8-9, but the Herd held the All-Stars without a point for over seven minutes and forged a 19-9 lead that was never challenged again. The Herd led at the half 35-16.
One of the new players was Angelica "Stick" Harris, a 5-foot-9 junior guard out of Rend Lake (Ill.) Junior College who played at Wooddale H.S. in Memphis, Tenn. "You want to go hard in practice every day, because you play like you practice," said Harris, who had 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting (1-of-4 from three), tops among the new players. "Coach really emphasized rebounding and going hard, even though we had the lead, we had to keep playing hard. We kept our intensity."
Crook, who was named to the Conference USA All-Tournament team by taking the Herd to the semi-finals, had double-doubles in both exhibitions last year as a true frosh, then had five in season and three of those came in the C-USA Tournament. "I may have improved my outside game, because that was something I worked hard on this summer," said Crook, who hit 6-of-12 shots from the floor and eight of her last ten free-throws after missed the first two in the game.
"My teammates did a real good job of getting me the ball where I could score," said Crook. Her 12 rebounds included three on the offensive end, plus she added a block and three assists. "I don't think she had three assists all last year," Chadwick kidded his sophomore forward. She did have 14 helpers last season to go with a team-leading 28 blocks. "She is seeing the floor, seeing other people and that's what makes her a complete player, her vision. She is twice as good as last year. She worked really hard on her body, and that brought her mind with it."
Chadwick is stressing rebounding as one of the keys for the Herd to improve on last years 17 wins, and Crook is one of the keys. "Ty really worked hard this summer, she got stronger and more in-shape." When Chadwick's teams have been good, theyt have been very strong on the glass. "We have had some good rebounding teams here," said Chadwick. "We had Catie Knable, where we shot it and shot it, until eventually they got fouled.
"This team has a chance to really be a good rebounding team because we have Ty and Chant (Handy), and we can come in with Keona (Brooks, three rebounds and four points) and Andrea (Ibezim, who had eight points and six boards). You don't really lose much. We could be a really good rebounding team."
Also in the game for the Herd, junior guard Alix Barnett had five points, three rebounds, a steal, five assists and just one turnover. Junior Keona Brooks, from Southwest Tenn. C.C., had four points, an assist and three boards while Tania Walters, a red-shirt freshman, added five points, a rebound, a steal and three assists with no turnovers. Marshall had only five turnovers in the game. All players but four scored or had an assist, and all players but one had at least one rebound.
Marshall's women have one more exhibition game on Saturday, Nov. 8, against the DT-3 All-Stars at 7 p.m. The Herd will open the season at former Southern Conference rival Appalachian State, then begin the home season as the last event in Homecoming weekend by hosting the Mean Green of North Texas on Monday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. in the Cam Henderson Center. The Fifth Third Classic, featuring Tennessee State, Morgan State and Louisiana-Monroe will take place on Friday, Nov. 21, and Saturday, Nov. 22.