By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Marshall finally got its first road win out of the way. Getting the second tonight will be a tremendous challenge.
The Thundering Herd (7-13, 1-4 Conference USA) visits league newcomer Louisiana Tech (16-4, 4-1) at 8 p.m. Eastern at the Thomas Assembly Center in Ruston, La.
Thursday was a momentous night for the 2013-14 Herd. In defeating Rice 73-63, Marshall won on the road for the first time in 10 tries this season. Marshall had lost 12 straight on the road dating back to last season and is now just 3-23 away from Huntington since the start of the 2012-13.
“We got that monkey off our back,” redshirt freshman point guard Kareem Canty told the Herald-Dispatch of Huntington.
Marshall got off to a quick start and led 33-22 at halftime. Rice was able to cut the Herd lead to three early in the second half, but Canty hit a 3-pointer and assisted on a trey by Ryan Taylor as the Herd responded and held off the Owls the rest of the way.
“It was a big stretch,” Taylor said. “We were tested because they came back and got it within three. But Kareem hit a big-time shot and I hit a big-time shot, and we pulled away from there.”
Marshall shot 55.6 percent (10 of 18) in the second half and outrebounded the Owls 36-33 despite a 17-rebound effort from Rice forward Sean Obi.
Canty did not start for the first time this season, but came off the bench to lead Marshall with 18 points and seven assists.
He is averaging 6.6 assists per game, tops in C-USA and sixth in the country.
“Canty is really good with the ball, has superb quickness and has the ability to put up big numbers,” Louisiana Tech coach Michael White said.
Up next for the Herd is a team that has excelled in its new league much the same way the Marshall football team dominated its first year in the Mid-American Conference in 1997.
The Bulldogs are in a three-way tie with Southern Miss and Tulsa for first in C-USA. They won at Oklahoma, 102-98 in overtime Dec. 30, and are coming off Thursday’s 80-60 win over fellow league newcomer Charlotte.
Attendance for the Herd’s win at Rice was 1,254, but the crowd tonight will be six times bigger — not to mention louder and more unfriendly. With the game set to air nationally on CBS Sports Network, the school had been pushing “Operation Sellout” in an attempt to fill the 8,000-seat TAC. As of Friday afternoon, only 988 tickets remained available.
Louisiana Tech has one of the top defenses in C-USA, with three players in the top 10 in steals — Kenneth Smith (2.32), Alex Hamilton (1.50) and Cordarius Johnson (1.45). The Bulldogs also lead the league in turnover margin at plus-5.05.
Projected starters for the Bulldogs are guards Hamilton (15.4 points, 3.9 rebounds) and Smith (7.0 ppg, 7.1 assists), and forwards Anderson (10.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Johnson (9.0, 4.8) and Isaiah Massey (3.6, 3.6).
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