AP NEWS

Herd’s George was a difference maker

February 24, 2019

HUNTINGTON — Sophomore forward Darius George was put in the starting lineup for the Marshall Thundering Herd’s game last week. It was the first start of his men’s basketball career and his mother, Maria Hill from Staunton, Virginia, was in town to watch.

The 6-foot-7 forward was in a slump most of the season, but continued to play hard and was rewarded. He didn’t let anybody down, scoring 11 and grabbing seven rebounds against Middle Tennessee in a 98-93 victory.

George was a starting player for the first time in his 53rd game at Marshall. He found out from head coach Dan D’Antoni at practice before the game. His mother was coming to the game anyway, but he said it was nice for her to know he was going to be in the starting lineup.

“I just played like I always play,” he said. “Play hard with intensity, get the rebounds and get the loose ball 50-50s.”

Marshall has struggled all season without a strong defensive presence around the basket that results in opposing teams getting too many offensive rebounds. D’Antoni said he replaced 6-5 Taevion Kinsey with George to give the Herd a bit more size.

Middle Tennessee still whipped the Herd in rebounds with a plus-26 advantage, but D’Antoni said that didn’t bother him as much as the Blue Raiders having a 24-7 edge on the offensive end.

“Normally, I always say rebounding is a funny stat, but we were giving away too many second chances,” D’Antoni said. “That’s when rebounding becomes a problem.”

George did make a difference as the team leader in rebounds. Also, Kinsey came off the bench to collect five rebounds while contributing 13 points. George was joined at the forward position by 6-9 sophomore Jannson Williams, the Herd’s top rebounder with 4.9 per game. Williams had 16 points, four rebounds and three blocked shots in the game.

“Sometimes you have to jump start things,” D’Antoni said about the lineup change. “Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. We were giving away too many second chances.”

George is averaging 5. 2 points and 3.0 rebounds in 14.9 minutes of action. While not knowing if he’ll stay in the lineup, he vowed to continue playing hard.

Marshall (14-13, 7-7 Conference USA) had the weekend off in a 12-day break between games. The final four-game push to attain a No. 6 seed in the conference tournament begins with a 7:30 p.m. Thursday game against Louisiana Tech (17-10, 7-7) at the Thomas Assembly Center in Ruston, Louisiana.

George said getting three full days off after the last game seemed like Christmas.

“We haven’t had a break in a long time,” he said. “We’re just regrouping and getting ready for the next game and we should be fine. Play our hardest, listen to the coaches, do whatever we can and we should be fine.

“As long as we play like we can play we should be fine.”

D’Antoni said last week’s performance from George was kind of what was expected of him all along. The coach related the time when he was raising his sons and would put the keys to the gym on the table, but didn’t force them to go because they needed to do it on their own.

He said George needed to do more on his own and has been coming in a little bit earlier for more work.

Marshall senior guard Rondale Watson said his teammate provided extra effort and a boost the Herd needed.

Next game

MARSHALL (14-13, 7-7) AT LOUISIANA TECH (17-10, 7-7)

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

WHERE: Thomas Assembly Center, Ruston, Louisiana

TV: CUSA.tv

RADIO: WDDG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM