Now tied atop C-USA, Herd looks to rebound at LA Tech
HUNTINGTON — Other than losing the game, the only thing the Marshall Thundering Herd lost Monday night at Western Kentucky University was sole possession of first place in Conference USA men’s basketball.
Western Kentucky’s 68-59 win in E.A. Diddle Arena put Marshall (12-7, 5-1 conference) in a first-place tie with North Texas (17-2, 5-1). The standings can and probably will continue to change through the end of the regular season.
“That (defeat) doesn’t deter us from what we want to do,” said Jon Elmore, the point guard for Marshall’s defending conference champions. “It was a tough game. Credit to them — they beat us. I feel like we showed a lot. We were winning that game until the end, so it’s just a matter of us learning how to finish games like that.”
Marshall won a Jan. 12 home game against preseason conference favorite Western Kentucky (10-9, 3-3) by a 70-69 margin and the teams could possibly meet again in a flex game at the end of the regular season and maybe once more in the C-USA tournament.
Before that, however, Marshall continues a stretch of playing five games in 10 days with a trip to Louisiana
Tech (13-7, 3-4) for a 9 p.m. contest in the Thomas Assembly Center and a visit to Southern Miss (11-8, 3-4) to play at 5 p.m. Saturday in Reed Green Coliseum.
LA Tech is 10-0 at home this season with two wins against non-NCAA Division I opponents Harding and Tougaloo. The Bulldogs have a 101-9 home record since February 2012.
Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni said the schedule setup rivals anything he experienced in nine seasons as an NBA assistant. The Herd won against FIU at home Saturday, rode six hours on a bus Sunday for the Monday game in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and returned afterward. Tuesday was an off day and the team practiced Wednesday before flying to Ruston, Louisiana.
It’s even more difficult considering D’Antoni thinks C-USA teams are better than what he’s seen.
“We had that one standout team like Middle (Tennessee) for a couple years, but from top to bottom this is probably the most stout Conference USA teams that I’ve seen,” the Herd’s fifth-season coach said.
“It’s early in the conference season. We jumped out real well, but we have to keep playing. It’s going to be a tough road.”
On Monday, Marshall had a seven-point lead at Western Kentucky with 6:18 left in the game.
Elmore lost the basketball out of bounds, forward Jannson Williams followed with another turnover, the Herd missed two straight 3-point shots and C.J. Burks coughed the ball up, fueling the Hilltoppers in an eightpoint run. Marshall missed some more shots and Western Kentucky finished a surge of 14 consecutive points to go up 60-53 with 1:37 remaining.
“A couple bad plays seemed to domino effect us a little bit,” Elmore said. “A couple of turnovers where we lost the handle on the ball or a pass got deflected. We had a couple of good looks, good shots that we make, that didn’t go in.
“It seemed like everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. So, we just have to try to minimize that.”
Marshall went to Western Kentucky with a five-game win streak and lost for the first time in 30 games when leading at halftime.
Elmore, a 6-foot-3 senior from Charleston, scored 17 at Western Kentucky and enters the LA Tech game third in C-USA with a 20.1 scoring average. Elmore’s 2,269 career points is third all-time for the Herd and in the conference. His 292 career 3-point field goals is one away from Austin Loop’s school record set from 2013-17. He needs eight assists for 701 that would tie the Herd record held by Greg White (1977-81).
Herd senior C.J. Burks received C-USA Player of the Week honors Monday after 30-point games in wins against Florida Atlantic and FIU. He fell off to 13 points against Western Kentucky. The 6-3 guard from Hedgesville, West Virginia, is ninth in the league with 17.6 points per game. Taevion Kinsey collected his second C-USA Freshman of the Week award with averages of 13 points and 7.5 rebounds during the week. The 6-foot-5 forward from Columbus, Ohio, had eight dunks in 10 field goals against FIU.
Jarrod West is a defensive specialist who made five steals in each of the last three games. The 5-11 sophomore from Clarksburg, West Virginia, has 104 thefts in 55 career games. He also scores 6.2 points a game.
The Herd’s Jannson Williams, a 6-9 sophomore forward from Newnan, Georgia, averages 9.2 points and 4.5 rebounds.
Marshall’s reputation is for offense with the Herd averaging 80.7 points and 9.2 made 3-point shots, but D’Antoni said the Herd defense stymied Western Kentucky up to the final six minutes.
“I think it ended up for the game that they scored .78 (points) per possession and we try to keep them under one (1.00), so that’s a pretty good defensive game,” he said.
LA Tech had an interesting game its last time out Saturday at Charlotte in a 55-40 setback. Head coach Eric Konkol’s squad was very good defensively, holding Charlotte to just 55 points and limiting C-USA leader Jon Davis (21.4) of the 49ers to nine, but the Bulldogs scored just 40.
The Bulldogs shot 27.8 percent from the field, were 1 for 23 on 3-point attempts and sank nine of their 18 foul shots.
“Everything that we tried to do defensively, we did,” Konkol said. “I thought we played really hard. Even with our offensive struggles, we continued to stay with it.”
DaQuan Bracey, a 5-11 junior guard averaging 13.4 points a game, led LA Tech with 13, and 6-7 junior forward Mubarak Muhammed scored 10 (6.0 average) and grabbed nine rebounds. JaColby Pemberton also scored 10 (9.9 average) and collected nine rebounds.
LA Tech also has 6-7 sophomore forward Anthony Duruji averaging 12.4 points and 5.5 rebounds and 6-3 sophomore guard Amorie Archibald scoring 10.3 points. Exavian Christon (6-4 sophomore guard) and Derric Jean (6-2 senior guard) have missed multiple games injured. They average 12.0 and 9.1 points respectively.
Six-foot-8 junior Oliver Powell is LA Tech’s leader in rebounds with 5.4 a game.
MARSHALL (12-7, 5-1) at LOUISIANA TECH (13-7, 3-4)
When: 9 p.m. Thursday
Where: Thomas Assembly Center, Ruston, La.
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM