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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Huntington (WV) Herald-Dispatch - Loss fails to dampen spirit of big crowd

Loss fails to dampen spirit of big crowd
Jan 13, 2008 @ 12:58 AM
Huntington (WV) Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON -- A sold-out crowd packed Cam Henderson Center to watch Marshall take on the No. 2 Memphis Tigers in Conference USA action.

And the Tigers proved why they are still the conference's elite.

But even in a 23-point loss, excitement was still abound Saturday night when Memphis won, 68-45.

"Memphis is a good team, I wish them the best this year and hope they win it all, but look out," Marshall fan Chandos Peak said. "In the future, we might be in their shoes."

Peak was one of 9,043 spectators in attendance and the majority stayed until the end to let the Thundering Herd know they were still behind them. Marshall's players said such support from the fans is what keeps the team upbeat, even after disappointing losses.

"The biggest thing that stood out to me is that after the game they stood up and gave us a standing ovation," Marshall forward Markel Humphrey said. "That's what we need as a team to keep us motivated."

While the fans were hoping to see a Marshall victory, most were realistic that it would take a perfect effort to beat the Tigers.

And even though the team was less than perfect, some fans still feel that it is the start of something big at Marshall.

"It should be filled up like this every game," Marshall student Matt Sovine of Culloden said.

"We put an exciting product on the court and these guys never quit."

With Memphis' program near the top in the country, there is no better person to know what it takes to establish a program than Tigers head coach John Calipari.

Calipari said that it is just as much on the fans as Marshall head coach Donnie Jones to build the Herd into a contending program in C-USA.

"People don't realize the fans have as much to do with building a program as anything," Calipari said. "But you have to buy in with some blind faith. You've got to have blind faith. ... You have to say we have to do this because if a recruit came in and saw that, they are coming to Marshall.

"If a recruit comes in and there is 1,500 in that building, are you going to come to Marshall? It takes a village to build a program."

While the Tigers let Marshall know that it still has a way to go before catching them at the top, the sentiment of the fans is that Jones is elevating the program game by game. And as the team gets better, so do the numbers in the stands.

Marshall honored former star John Taft during the game with an 'M' Club blanket, a fitting piece to the night as the atmosphere resembled one from the days when Taft lit up the opposition on this same court.

Marshall fan Claude Gore remembers those nights and said it is coming once again.

"This is good. The excitement is getting back to what it used to be in the old days," Gore said.

As Calipari's team heads out of town to undertake the rest of the Conference USA slate, he issued a challenge to the Marshall fans.

"The challenge is can (Marshall) generate what was in that building every night we play for us," Calipari said. "Forget about that other team, can you do it? That is a challenge to the fans here because if you can do it, you are going to see this thing take off."

"Now that we are leaving, everybody should come to every game and get these guys going and help them get it done."

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