Herd limps into Rice
HUNTINGTON — Marshall’s Thundering Herd moved on from a Thursday loss at North Texas for a Saturday game at Rice needing to find its shooting touch along the way.
North Texas battered Marshall 78-51 at The Super Pit in Denton, Texas. Freshman forward Taevion Kinsey’s 18 points led the Herd. Kinsey sank seven of 13 shots while his teammates combined to go 9 for 43.
The Herd shot 28.1 percent for the game and was just 5 for 24 on its specialty, the 3-point field goal.
Jon Elmore’s scoring average dropped to 19.9 per game with a season-low four points on 1-for-7 shooting for the 6-foot-3 senior point guard. C.J. Burks, a 6-4 senior guard, is averaging 18.0 after scoring only nine and he made three of 15 shots. Rondale Watson connected on half of his shots, going 3 for 6, and the 6-4 senior guard scored all 11 of Marshall’s bench points.
“We’ve got to get better,” Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni said in a postgame interview. “We’ve got to look at this and what we did and what we didn’t do and try to keep getting better and try to change our course that we’re on right now.”
Five defeats in its last six games put Marshall at 13-11 for the season and 6-5 in Conference USA.
The conference season is 18 games and after everyone plays 14 a flex schedule goes into effect. Each team will be in a pod based on the standings after 14 games (first to fifth, sixth to 10th, 11th to 14th) and plays its final four games against teams in its pod. The thinking is having the top teams playing each other will improve how they look to the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
Old Dominion, 9-3 in C-USA, is one-half game ahead of North Texas and UTSA at 8-3. Western Kentucky is fourth with a 7-4 league record while Southern Miss, UAB and Marshall are all 6-5. Four other teams — Louisiana Tech, FIU, Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee — are bunched at 5-6.
Marshall plays Rice (9-15, 4-7) at 8 p.m. Saturday at Tudor Fieldhouse in Houston. Along with its lost shooting touch, D’Antoni said Marshall is trying to find its lost spirit.
“The tank isn’t right and somehow I’ve got to find a way and our staff has to find a way to get that spirit,” he said. “Basketball, any sport, is about your spirit your competitiveness inside you and you’ve got to bring it.”
North Texas (20-4) was ahead by 10 at halftime and a 3-point shooting barrage by junior guard Roosevelt Smart, who struck three times in the first 1:07 of the second period stretched the margin to 45-26. Kinsey banked in a shot that pulled the Herd within 45-28 with 18:26 left in the game and that was as close as it got.
The Mean Green’s scoring came from five starting players — Smart 20 (along with 10 rebounds), freshman guard Umoja Gibson 19, 6-foot-10 sophomore forward Zachary Simmons 18 (11 rebounds), junior guard Ryan Woolridge 18 and senior guard Michael Miller six (13 rebounds).
North Texas doubled up Marshall on points in the paint 34-16 and had a plus-25 rebound edge with 18 offensive rebounds that led to 17 second-chance points.
“I don’t mind fighting and going down, but when you just sit there and look like someone just stole your candy, that’s hard for me to stomach,” D’Antoni said.
Rice had a tough Thursday night at home against Western Kentucky, losing to the Hilltoppers 92-85 in double overtime. Rice scored 13 straight in a 24-7 run to lead 70-57 with 7:39 remaining. The Owls went cold, missing their final eight shots of regulation while turning the ball over six times and the Hilltoppers used a 14-0 run to take a 71-70 lead with 1:02 to go. Chris Mullins made two free throws for the Owls with five seconds left that forced overtime.
Ako Adams of the Owls hit his seventh 3-pointer with 15 seconds left and the teams went to a second overtime tied 80-80. Western Kentucky made nine of 11 foul shots across both extra periods to secure the win.
The Hilltoppers played without head coach Rick Stansbury who missed the game because of a lingering back injury.
Adams, a 6-2 junior guard averaging 12.3 points, topped the Owls with 23. Mullins (6-3 freshman guard) and Quentin Millora-Brown (6-9 freshman forward) both scored 13. Millora-Brown also snagged 11 rebounds.
Mullins scores 12.7 a game, 6-6 junior forward Robert Martin averages 11.9 and 6-8 graduate forward Jack Williams adds 10.1. Williams has an 8.1 rebound average.
MARSHALL (13-11, 6-5) at RICE (9-15, 4-7)
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Tudor Fieldhouse, Houston
Radio: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM