Huntington, WV (SportsNetwork.com) - The 25th-ranked Old Dominion Monarchs moved into the nation's top 25 for the first time in program history, and will do everything they can to remain there as they face the Marshall Thundering Herd in a Conference USA matchup at Cam Henderson Center.
Old Dominion enters this game with a 12-1 record on the season, and is searching for its 10th consecutive victory. The only loss the Monarchs suffered was back in November to Illinois State, 64-45. ODU took down Charlotte, 61-54, on Sunday before earning its spot in the Top-25.
Marshall, on the other hand, is off to a rough start to the 2014-15 season. The Herd have dropped four consecutive games, and have lost 10 of their last 11 altogether. Marshall is coming off an 81-62 demolition at the hands of Western Kentucky, which dropped the team to 4-10 on the season and 0-1 in conference play.
Old Dominion and Marshall, two relatively new conference rivals, have met 10 times on the floor before in their series history. The Monarchs own a 6-4 all- time mark over the Herd, which includes a season sweep by ODU in 2013-14.
A strong first half lifted Old Dominion to a 29-18 lead over Charlotte at halftime, which provided the Monarchs with enough of a cushion to simply coast the rest of the way through the contest. ODU connected on 50 percent of its first-half shots, and ended the game shooting 42.9 percent from the floor. Trey Freeman netted 14 points to pace Old Dominion, adding in six assists with five turnovers. Richard Ross scored 12 points with six rebounds, and Aaron Bacote added 10 points. Jonathan Arledge chipped in with nine points and seven boards for ODU.
Old Dominion isn't the most explosive team offensively, as the Monarchs enter Thursday's matchup scoring 66.3 ppg on the season, connecting on 42.3 percent of its field goal tries from the floor. It's a middle-of-the-road scoring average in terms of Conference USA rankings, but the team's scoring defense (55.1 ppg allowed) is by far the best in the conference this season. Freeman is the only Monarchs player to average a double-digit scoring total coming into Thursday, with 16.4 ppg and a team-best 45 assists. ODU is 2-0 on the road so far, and is 2-1 in neutral-site games.
Once again, it was just not Marshall's night, this time versus Western Kentucky. The Thundering Herd connected on a mere 33.3 percent shooting from the field (25.8 percent in the second half), and shot 5-of-23 from beyond the 3-point arc as the Hilltoppers ran to an 81-62 victory. Ryan Taylor once again led Marshall in scoring, netting 15 points with six rebounds (10 of his points came from the free-throw line). Aleksa Nikolic and Austin Loop each had 10 points, while Nikolic grabbed a team-high eight boards in the defeat.
Marshall's offense hasn't been all that bad in 2014-15, although the Thundering Herd are tied for last in the Conference USA standings in field goal percentage (38.7 percent from the floor). The Herd are averaging a pedestrian 67.4 ppg this season. It's the scoring defense that hasn't been able to keep up (70.9 ppg allowed to opponents). Taylor owns team leads in scoring (14.1 ppg) and rebounding (8.3 rpg), and is second in passing (42 assists). Loop is the only other active Marshall player with a double-digit scoring average (10.3 ppg). The Herd could really use Shawn Smith back, who has been out for awhile with a shoulder injury.