Marshall’s basketball team would like for its Conference USA debut to turn out differently than it did for the football team.

The Thundering Herd will play its first-ever game in the league tonight when it visits UCF for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off. Both teams enter the first week of league play with 6-6 records.

The football team also began its C-USA season at UCF, and the results were disastrous. The Golden Knights ended a 17-game losing streak at the expense of first-year coach Mark Snyder’s team, beating the Herd 23-13. Marshall finished the season 4-7, missing bowl eligibility for the first time since joining the Division I ranks in 1997.

Ron Jirsa’s team certainly is hoping for dissimilar results.

Both Marshall and UCF are coming off near-upsets of nationally ranked teams. The Herd led then-No. 20 George Washington by 12 with less than nine minutes to play before losing 79-73 in overtime.

Not only did the Herd fail to protect the lead, but also the ball. They committed 28 turnovers, and shot 11-of-23 from the free throw line in the second half of the loss.

“We are being pressed, they are fouling us, we’ve got to make the foul shots,” Jirsa said. “I mean, it’s very simple at that point.”

UCF, meanwhile, has not played since Jan. 3, when it gave then-No. 21 Kentucky a big scare. It took a shot by Rajon Rondo with 1.5 seconds remaining for the Wildcats to turn back the Knights 59-57 at Rupp Arena.

The Colonials moved up to No. 17 in this week’s AP poll, while Kentucky dropped out after a loss at unranked Kansas Saturday.

Senior center Mark Patton continues to lead the Herd. The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Barboursville native is averaging 14.9 points and 6.8 rebounds, both team-highs.

Freshman Markel Humphrey, a 6-5 forward, has gotten progressively better since cracking the starting lineup. He averages 6.1 ppg and 4.9 rpg.

Rounding out the starting five are guards Chris Ross (5.7 ppg, 3.9 assists), Mark Dorris (5.3 ppg) and Tre Whitted (8.3 ppg).

Junior forward Josh Peppers (13.8 ppg) and senior guard Justin Rose (11.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg) lead the Knights. They are joined by sophomore guard Mike O’Donnell (7.8 ppg), senior forward Anthony Williams (7.2 ppg) and 6-9, 225-pound sophomore center Adam Gill (3.7 ppg, 1.8 rpg).

This will be the schools’ first-ever meeting in basketball.

After tonight’s game, Marshall returns to the Cam Henderson Center Saturday to host UAB. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

— E-mail:

gfauber@register-herald.com

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