Ryan Luther and Herd That have advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2020 The Basketball Tournament, where they’ll face Overseas Elite on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m.
It’s a bit of an odd mix with Luther as the only Pittsburgh guy and Pitt (and Arizona) alum on the team that’s mostly populated with Marshall graduates, including general manager Ot Elmore and his point guard brother John Elmore.
There was no Pitt or Arizona team for Luther to sign up for, but an old friend gave him a connection with Herd That.
“I had a friend that grew up Charleston that knew the Elmores,” Luther told Pittsburgh Sports Now. “So I kind of had that connection through him. And then John had texted me and asked if I wanted to play so I guess I decided it’d be a good idea. It’s been great so far, because we’ve had a couple weeks of practice and obviously, two games a third game today, so it’s been awesome so far.”
He joined some of the Herd That players 10 days before their official practices started, eager to get a head start on getting together with his new teammates that have played together for years at Marshall.
“It was a little bit of adjustment especially because everyone was sitting home in quarantine for a couple months, but I think everyone was pretty anxious to get back in the gym,” he said. “So but it’s been pretty easy because, you know, the Marshall guys like to get up and down and shoot a lot of threes and stuff. So some of the stuff I’ve done before. So I was pretty comfortable, just with the style of play and the actions and stuff the stuff they run. So a little bit of adjustment but not anything more than just adjusting the play with anyone.”
Luther played in the ACC with Pitt, the Pac-12 with Arizona and has since played professionally in Latvia and Turkey. He said the level of competition in TBT is comparable.
“The basketball has been really high level,” he said. “Every every person you play, no matter what, they’re a pro and it’s just, you know, the maturity levels guys and the way they kind of approach the game. Even if you’re not familiar with a lot of guys, every person playing in this tournament’s really good. So like, games definitely have a different feel than college. And maybe a little bit different feel than overseas. Maybe kind of a hybrid between the two. But yeah, it’s really high level.”
On Thursday, Luther hit the game-winner for No. 23-seed Herd That to complete a huge comeback over No. 7 The Money Team. Luther’s running layup gave Herd That 102 points, one more than the target score for the Elam Ending, which the TBT uses to finish games. The hybrid scoring system turns off the clock with four minutes to play, with the target score set at eight points higher than the leading team.
“The game winner was exciting,” he said. “We knew it was gonna be tough coming back because I think we were down nine in the Elam Ending. So I think we outscored them 17 to two or something at the end, which is pretty crazy. I was just excited I had a play at the end to make and it was exciting once I made it. But the Elam Ending is pretty cool. It takes away from fouling and kind of boring, at least for the people watching, last few minutes, which is fouling and free throws.
“So, it’s kind of more like you’re playing at the park or playing pickup. So you have to get a certain score. If the other team locks up defensively, then you’re in for a battle, so I think it’s been really good.”
If you haven’t seen Luther since his Pitt days, the power forward’s visage is quite a bit different these days. He’s sporting long hair and burly beard in the tournament. Perhaps a nod to the West Virginia influence on his team?
“I guess I just started growing and when I was overseas. I just, I guess never ended up getting a haircut. I guess I had planned like getting one when I got home but the quarantine thing kind of just kept it going now.
“I don’t really know what I have going on, but I guess it does help me fit in with the West Virginia guys.”