Herd loses fifth-straight in 72-51 loss to Monarchs

“If we’re going to get better and be able to play teams like this, we’re going to have to find a way to get to the basket.”

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Lexi Browning

Marshall’s Justin Edmonds scores as the Herd men’s basketball team takes on the South Carolina Gamecocks Dec. 1, 2014 at the Cam Henderson Center.

The Thundering Herd men’s basketball team opened Conference USA play at home with its fifth straight loss Thursday after falling to the No. 25 Monarchs of Old Dominion University 72-51.

The Herd remained within striking range of the ranked Monarchs in the first half, taking an early 5-0 lead thanks to back-to-back buckets by Ryan Taylor. Old Dominion answered with a 7-0 run to take a lead it kept until Marshall University guard Austin Loop hit a three to give the Herd a 17-16 edge halfway through the first half.

That one point margin was the last lead the Herd saw in the game. Thanks to more than eight minutes of scoreless play, including a drought of 3:33 to end the half, ODU took its largest lead of the half into the locker room at 35-25.

A hot start to the second half by the Monarchs all but ended it for the Herd. Before Marshall could blink, its 10 point deficit was 18.

Loop said the Herd has to learn how to be consistent in all phases of the game to avoid stretches like it had at the beginning of the second half, which immediately put it in a bigger hole than it was already in.

“At the beginning of the second half, we were down 10 [points] and then it went to 18 real quick,” Loop said. “We’ve got to sustain effort, not just effort, but taking care of the ball and making plays.”

Sensing a young team that is struggling, the Monarchs smelled blood and quickly took over the game, pushing the lead out to as much as 26 points.

The Monarchs out-shot the Herd in the second half, nearly doubling Marshall in attempts, 32-17. Old Dominion also had a huge advantage in the paint, outscoring the Herd 30-6, including 18-2 in the second half.

Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni attributed the Herd’s lack of scoring inside not only to ODU, but to his own team. D’Antoni criticized the Herd’s pick and roll play, specifically the players setting the picks not doing a good enough job of freeing up room for the guards.

“We just had a hard time getting to the basket, their athletes are quick” D’Antoni said. “In the pick and roll, we were trying to get out too quickly and we need to put a little bit of body on them to get our guards a little bit better of an advantage.”

D’Antoni also said freshman point guard Aleksa Nikolic needs to attack the basket more to create plays at the rim, which would hopefully help in preventing lopsided totals in the points in the paint column and also give the Herd easier looks at the basket.

“If we’re going to get better and be able to play teams like this, we’re going to have to find a way to get to the basket,” D’Antoni said. “It starts with Aleks, he’s got to get to where he can get to the rim and get a couple of finishes at the rim. That could change the course of a lot of things.”

The loss is the second in C-USA play, after the Herd lost 81-62 at Western Kentucky University Sunday. Marshall will have a quick turnaround with University of North Carolina at Charlotte coming to town Saturday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

Shannon Stowers can be contacted at [email protected].