Dec. 28, 2005
GREENVILLE, S.C. - The Thundering Herd will participate in its first regular season tournament since the 2001-02 season when it takes on South Carolina State in the opening game of Furman University's Jack-In-The-Box Holiday Classic at 6 p.m. Thursday. The host Paladins and Kennesaw State play in the other matchup that begins 30 minutes after Marshall's contest with the Bulldogs.
Marshall will play against either Kennesaw State or Furman on December 30 in the consolation game or finals. Those games begin at 6 and 8 p.m., respectively.
The Herd's last regular season tournament came in Lexington, Ky., at the NABC Classic at Rupp Arena on November 15-16, 2001. Marshall dropped a 69-64 decision to George Washington and lost 90-73 to Kentucky in the tournament.
Marshall (4-4) and South Carolina State (2-6) will meet for the first time on the hardwood at the Jack-In-The-Box Holiday Classic. All-time against the MEAC, the Thundering Herd is 7-0; earlier this season, Marshall knocked off fellow MEAC member Maryland-Eastern Shore, 66-56, on December 1. The Herd has never faced Kennesaw State (4-5), but is very familiar with Furman (4-5), a former Southern Conference foe. Marshall leads the all-time series 26-19, and last met in a game in Huntington on January 11, 1997, a game the Herd won, 76-65.
Thursday's game will be the Herd's first ever game in Furman's Timmons Arena. During MU's Southern Conference days, the Paladins played their games at Greenville Memorial Auditorium. All-time against Furman in Greenville, Marshall has a record of 9-10.
South Carolina State enters Thursday's contest with a 2-6 record, with wins coming over Southern Utah and North Carolina A&T. Brian Mason leads the Bulldogs in scoring, averaging 14.9 points per game. Thurman Zimmerman is the only other SCSU player averaging double-figures at 10.0 points per contest. Mason also leads South Carolina State on the glass, averaging 7.4 rebounds per game.
Marshall last played on December 20 in an 82-53 win over Charleston Southern, the largest margin of victory in the Ron Jirsa era and the largest since a 112-78 win over Kentucky State on November 25, 2002. Tre Whitted led the Herd, going 8-of-9 from the floor and 3-of-4 from three in route to a career-high tying 20-point effort. The Herd also got the job done on the defensvie end, limiting the Buccaneers to 28.4% from the floor and 17.4% from beyond-the-arc.
In the win over Charleston Southern, Marshall shot 59.2% from the floor, the best of the Ron Jirsa era and its best shooting percentage since a 60% effort against Kent State on February 25, 2003. The Herd's defensive effort was also the best in a while - CSU's 28.4% shooting percentage was the worst for a Marshall opponent since IPFW shot 25.4% on December 28, 2000 (a Marshall 99-70 win).
Sophomore guard Joe Miles (Forestville, Md.) leads the Herd in scoring, averaging 13.3 points per game. Junior forward Travis Aikens (Orlando, Fla.) and senior center Mark Patton (Barboursville, W.Va.) also average double-digit points, with 12.5 and 12.1 points per contest, respectively.
Thursday's game marks the beginning of a three-game road swing for Marshall. The Herd plays two games in Greenville, and then travels to Boone, N.C., to take on Appalachian State on January 4th. The game with the Mountaineers is the second matchup of the season between the two schools - ASU won the first contest, 73-65, in Huntington on December 17.
Tip off against South Carolina State is set for 6 p.m. The game can be heard live in the region on the ISP/Thundering Herd Network or on the Internet at www.HerdZone.com.