Herd comeback edges Hilltoppers
HUNTINGTON — Jannson Williams made the big shot and Taevion Kinsey made the big difference in the Marshall Thundering Herd going to 3-0 in Conference USA men’s basketball.
Williams popped in a 3-point field goal from the top of the circle with 21 seconds left Saturday night, bringing Marshall back from a 15-point first-half deficit to defeat Western Kentucky University 70-69 with 7,687 spectators in the Cam Henderson Center crowd.
Marshall (10-6) moved to 3-0 in the conference with its third win in a lategame scenario. Western Kentucky (8-8) fell to 1-2 in C-USA.
Williams tied the game 67-67 on a dunk of a Jon Elmore lob with 1:45 remaining. After WKU’s Lamonte Bearden found an opening to the rim for a layup, Elmore missed a 3-point try and pulled down his own miss. Elmore passed to Rondale Watson who fed Williams, a 6-foot-9 sophomore forward, for the game-winner.
“Jannson hit a huge 3,” Elmore said.
Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni said he was proud of his young men for not quitting after shooting horribly in the first half (33.3 percent) and committing nine of its 14 turnovers that the Hilltoppers converted into points.
D’Antoni said that after getting behind by 15 the Herd worked the deficit down and Elmore became aggressive. Elmore scored 15 of his 21 in the final period.
“Taevion Kinsey was extremely good,” D’Antoni said. “Jannson hit a big ol’ shot. Life is good. It’s all really good right now, but this game is over. Two Florida teams coming in here and we’ve got to be ready to play.”
The Herd’s next two games are at home Thursday against Florida Atlantic and Saturday with FIU. Florida Atlantic (11-6, 2-2) lost at home Saturday against Charlotte, 65-60.
Kinsey, a 6-5 freshman guard, was all over the court in his third game playing as a forward. Kinsey topped the Marshall scoring with 23, led the Herd rebounding with seven and used his athleticism defensively to help throttle the Hilltoppers.
The Hilltoppers quieted the crowd and held a 61-53 lead when the Herd went to work.
Elmore lobbed to Kinsey for a dunk that woke the fans up, then Kinsey got inside for a basket and completed a threepoint play with a free throw that pulled Marshall within 63-58 with 6:48 left. Kinsey scored on a Jarrod West feed to keep the margin at five with 5:44 remaining.
The crowd really came alive when Elmore’s long 3-point shot reduced the gap to 65-63 with 5:14 left to play. After a few minutes ticked off the game clock, Kinsey caught a lob from Elmore in traffic and went back up for a basket and the Hilltoppers’ lead was 67-65 at 2:57.
“The difference in the game was Kinsey,” said WKU head coach Rick Stansbury.
Following a Western Kentucky turnover West misfired on a 3-point try and Kinsey was there to collect the rebound. Williams dunked an Elmore lob that tied the game, 67-67, and only 1:45 remained.
Lamonte Bearden of the Hilltoppers found an opening to the rim for a layup and a 69-67 advantage. Bearden missed again, Elmore rebounded and Williams nailed the clutch 3-pointer.
The home crowd was a big factor.
“I think that was the best crowd since I’ve been here,” said Elmore, a senior. “They fueled us the whole way.”
Elmore scored 21 and delivered five assists. Williams netted 12 points, snagged six rebounds and blocked four shots.
Western Kentucky sophomore guard Taveion Hollingsworth’s 20 point performance was supported by 6-11 freshman Charles Bassey with 16 points and eight rebounds and 6-6 sophomore guard Josh Anderson who had 13 points and seven rebounds.
FLORIDA ATLANTIC (11-6, 2-2) at MARSHALL (10-6, 3-0)
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Cam Henderson Center, Huntington
Radio: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM