Old Dominion comes into Marshall Saturday morning, and finds the Herd short one player. Friday, Marshall released sophomore Brandon Powell from the team for violations of team rules, according to an official release. Powell was one of three transfers who came to MU last year with Jones in his first season, and Powell had played for Jones and Billy Donovan at Florida two years ago on the National Championship Gator team that propelled Jones home to take over the Herd men's program.
The ODU Monarchs are 1-2 on the season, including a loss to Conference USA's UAB Blazers. This is the first meeting between the two schools since the 1976-77 season, which was ODU's first in Division I play. The series is even at 3-3.
The Monarchs, who are out of Norfolk, Va., are led by Gerald Lee at 16.7 points per game,while six other Monarchs are averaging 7.0 to 9.3 ppg. Darius James is at 9.3 points and 5.0 assists per game. Ben Finney averages 7.0 rebounds per game.
Marshall and ODU have former coach Sonny Allen in common. Allen, a point guard for the Herd from 1956-59 and later an assistant coach at Marshall through 1962 (as well as serving as equipment manager for the Herd), then moved to ODU a couple of years later as head coach. Allen was voted the NABC College Division II National Coach of the Year in 1975 when his "Running' Monarchs" won the NCAA national Division II basketball championship by defeating New Orleans University, 76-74.
Allen's teams were using the Cam Henderson "rule" fast break the coach learned from his Herd coach, Jule Rivlin (an All-American guard for Henderson in the 1930s). The Associated Press also voted Allen as the 1975 Small College Coach of the Year, and he set up the first game for the Monarchs in D-I against Marshall for the 1976-77 season.
Coast-to-coast honors capped a remarkable 10-year tenure (1964-75) for Allen, during which he lifted Old Dominion from a 7-17 record playing a mixture of Division III and II opponents to one second-place national finish in Division II in 1971 and then a 25-6 record against Division I and II teams and the national title in 1975 before moving on to coach the now Herd Conference USA mate, SMU.
Freshman guard Shaquille Johnson leads the Herd in scoring at 15.5 points per game and has taken high-scorer honors in two of four games in 2008-09. Senior guard/forward Markel Humphrey is next at 13.3 ppg while freshman point guard Damier Pitts (Charlotte, N.C.) nets 9.0 ppg. Johnson and Pitts have started all four games of their young collegiate careers.
The Herd, winners of 18 of its last 23 home games, will take on a Virginia-based school for the first time since dropping Virginia Tech at the Henderson Center on Dec. 30, 2006. Norfolk-based Old Dominion returns four starters from its 18-16 team of a year ago, including second team All-Colonial Athletic Association selection Lee. The 6-foot-10 Finnish center leads the Monarchs in scoring, is second in rebounding at 6.0 rebounds per game, shoots 56.7 percent from the floor and 93.3 percent from the free-throw line. He scored a team-high 26 points with seven rebounds in 40 minutes of ODU's double-overtime loss at Bucknell on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Thundering Herd football team (4-7) will close out the season with the high-flying Tulsa Golden Hurricane, who average 50 points and nearly 600 yards of offense per game. 14 Thundering Herd seniors will be introduced in the pre-game portion of the contest, as will seniors on the managerial staff, athletic training staff, cheerleaders and "Marching Thunder" Marshall band during the pre-game. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. and the game will be heard on the Thundering Herd/ISP Sports Network, including ESPN 930 AM and The Dawg, 93.7 FM in Huntington. The tailgate show from the West Lot will start as soon as the network ends the basketball broadcast from the Henderson Center.
With both basketball and football, the parking information is this: Football parking permits will be honored as usual on all game day lots. Marshall basketball West Lot parking passes will be honored at the Third Avenue Garage only, right across from the Henderson Center. As mentioned, Marshall will honor its 14 seniors who will be playing their last game at Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Saturday before the game. The 14 seniors are: Darius Passmore, E.J. Wynn, C.J. Spillman, Ian Hoskins, Emmanuel Spann, Aaron Johnson, Chubb Small, Phillip Gamble, Cody Tominack, Maurice Kitchens, Joe Bragg, Matt Altobello, Brian Leggett and Matt Parkhurst.
Marshall will go without starting quarterback Mark Cann, who is not expected to dress with both shoulders injured on the starter in the first 11 games for the Herd. Sophomore Brian Anderson and junior Jonathan Garner, a transfer from Georgia Tech who did play in a sub-Varsity game for the Herd earlier this year, are both expected to see playing time. No matter who the QB, the running back of choice has been sophomore Darius Marshall, who last week topped the 1,000-yard mark with 1,001 for the season. Marshall has seven 100-plus rushing games in 11 contests this season, becoming only the tenth player in MU history to top 1,000 yards rushing.
Tulsa is balanced with quarterback David Johnson hitting 66 percent of his passes for over 3,000 yards, while running back Tarrion Adams is also over 1,000 yards rushing. Tulsa must win, and hope Rice upsets Houston on Friday, to win the West Division. A Marshall win gives either the Owls or the Cougars a chance to face East Division champs, East Carolina, in next week's Conference USA Championship game. ECU beat UTEP Friday to end the season 8-3.