D’Antoni: ‘Hillbilly Ball wasn’t very good’ in lopsided 100-64 loss
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Maybe the opportunity to play for a another conference championship will jolt the Marshall Thundering Herd out of its funk.
Marshall took on a huge challenge Monday afternoon, facing No. 4 University of Virginia (No. 2 in the USA Today Coaches Poll) in men’s basketball at John Paul Jones Arena before a slightly less than capacity crowd of 14,623 spectators. The Cavaliers (12-0) had no trouble rolling up another victory with a 100-64 defeat of the Herd that ended its non-conference schedule with a 7-6 record.
Conference USA games are next for Marshall beginning with a 7 p.m. Thursday contest at Old Dominion University (10-3). The Herd stays on the road, moving to Norfolk, Virginia, on Tuesday to begin preparing to defend the 2018 the league title.
Marshall slumps into conference play with six losses in its last nine games. The Herd was averaging 82 points (39th in the nation) and had its lowest output this season.
“Hillbilly Ball wasn’t very good today,” Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni said. “They shot the crap out of it early, and it kind of put us back on our heels. ... They played like a top 10 team and we didn’t, but I’ve been here before. We did that last year early, I forget which team it was that beat the dog out of us, and then we came back and beat Wichita State in the (NCAA Tournament) first round.”
Virginia’s win was the 300th in the 13-season career of head coach Tony Bennett (300-119) who is 231-86 in 10 seasons at the Atlantic Coast Conference school. The Cavaliers rang up their most points with Bennett on the bench.
Junior guard Kyle Guy pumped in a career-high 30 points and was 7-for-9 shooting 3-pointers for a Virginia team better known for its defense.
Virginia went into the game first in the nation for scoring defense (50.3 per game) after limiting six opponents to less than 50, was holding teams to 37.9 percent shooting and was second in 3-point field goal percentage defense (24.4). Marshall scored the second-most points Virginia has allowed, but made just 35.1 percent from the field and was 6-for-22 on 3-point attempts for 27.3 percent.
Marshall’s top scorers, senior guards Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks with averages of 19.6 and 18.0, had 14 and 11 points respectively.
“C.J. and Jon have to be our mainstays and we’ve got to get them to have better games,” D’Antoni said. “I told Jon you can’t be 3-for-17 (on field goals) and 1-for-8 (on 3-point shots). We’re not going to be very good. ... Same thing for C.J. C.J. is 1-for-4, 4-for-11. Can’t be that. Those are our two seniors and they’ve got to come out every day and lead this ball club. It’s not an easy task, but if you want to be a great player you have to play.”
The game was tied 5-5 when Virginia went on a 12-0 scoring spree to start pulling away. Another surge of 15 consecutive points put Virginia on top 42-16 with more than three minutes to go in the first period and the Cavaliers went into halftime leading 50-25. Marshall committed 10 of its 13 turnovers in the opening half.
Virginia was awarded with possession to begin the second half, which Marshall argued against to no avail, and Guy tossed in a 3-point shot to get a 10-point run going that left the Cavaliers ahead 60-25 after less than three minutes of action. Marshall pulled within 32 twice -- on a Burks 3-pointer with 13:06 remaining and again when Elmore made a free throw at 10:42 -- before the margin grew to 43 at 91-48 with 3:19 left.
“They played and shot the ball really well,” D’Antoni said. “We started being a little more aggressive in the second half, but we’re soft. We don’t make the plays you have to make.”
Virginia also had 6-foot-5 junior guard Ty Jerome and 7-1 sophomore Jay Huff with 14 points while De’Andre Hunter, a 6-7 sophomore guard, netted 11. Guy, Huff and 6-8 junior guard Braxton Key each added eight rebounds to a 45-23 advantage for the Cavaliers.
Marshall’s Rondale Watson, a 6-4 senior guard, scored eight of his 10 in the final 2:30.
Jannson Williams, a 6-9 sophomore forward, tossed in nine points and blocked two shots for Marshall. Freshman guard Taevion Kinsey scored eight.
Mikal Beyers played for a season-high 20 minutes with Marshall attempting to overcome the loss of 6-9 redshirt freshman Iran Bennett who has a broken foot and is done for the season. Beyers, a 6-9 sophomore junior college transfer, contributed five points, five rebounds and made two steals before fouling out with 3:19 to go.