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Slow start doomed MU at Ohio

December 3, 2018

HUNTINGTON — Dan D’Antoni-coached men’s basketball teams at Marshall University are notoriously slow starters.

Not that this season’s 5-2 beginning is bad, but expectations for the Thundering Herd are higher coming off winning the 2018 Conference USA championship and getting to the NCAA Tournament second round.

After Saturday’s 101-84 defeat at Ohio University, the Herd has lost two of its last three and was hit for more than 100 points in both losses. The Herd fell Nov. 23 at the University of Maryland, 104-67.

Marshall posted a 9-4 record last season in non-conference games and finished 25-11, the Herd was 7-6 in 2016-17 before finishing 20-15 and went 4-9 in the 2015-16 (17-16) and 2014-15 (11-21) seasons.

“We’ll see how they respond,” D’Antoni said following Saturday’s game. “We’re going to push them and the last four years they’ve always responded. We’ve always been a much better team (late in the season).

“We’ve got to start learning to carry it for a season and not wait for half a season toward the end.”

Marshall wasn’t ready to play at Ohio and was buried in the first half, D’Antoni said.

Ohio (5-2) treated the Convocation Center turnout of 6,301 spectators to a 51.4 percent shooting performance while going 9-for-17 on 3-point shots and holding a commanding plus-20 advantage in rebounds.

The Bobcats spurted from a 26-21 lead at 7:51 of the opening period into a 44-26 edge with 1:37 left in the half and were ahead at halftime, 48-31. Forward Jason Carter, who ended the game with 25 points and 12 rebounds, contributed 15 and eight respectively before the break.

Forward Ben Vander Plas (18 points) scored on a layup to give Ohio a 55-34 edge early in period two and Marshall chopped 10 points from the margin to pull within 65-54 with 11:40 remaining. Ohio’s lead reached 95-70 on another Vander Plas layup with 2:27 left before another Marshall run reduced the deficit to 95-82 in the final minute.

Gavin Block of the Bobcats helped hold the Herd down by sinking all four of his 3-point attempts after halftime and was 6-for-7 in the game for his 18 points.

Marshall played Ohio even after halftime, 53-53, but the early deficit made it too much of an uphill struggle, D’Antoni said.

Senior guards Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks popped in 26 and 22 points respectively to lead Marshall. Sophomore forward Jannson Williams (6-foot-9) and freshman guard Taevion Williams both tacked on eight while 6-7 sophomore forward Darius George and senior guard Rondale Watson scored seven apiece.

Redshirt freshman Iran Bennett, a 6-9 starting forward, had one point and two rebounds in eight minutes of action.

Marshall made 44.1 percent of its shots (8-for-27 on 3-pointers) and was 16 of 25 at the foul line. Missing free throws hampered the second-half attempt to get back in the game. Jarrod West and Burks missed the front end of one-and-one chances. Kinsey missed four consecutive times in the second half and was 2-for-6 in the game.

The Herd’s top rebounders were Williams, Burks, Elmore and George with four each.

D’Antoni said his preparation for a 7 p.m. Wednesday game at Duquesne (4-2) began before the bus ride home.

“We have nine new players who haven’t done this routine,” he said. “It’s the way they get ready and we have to teach them how to get ready. That’s not being late coming out to warm up, not being late to watch the little promotional film we put on early. It’s being ready all the time because they can’t turn it on. They’re not NBA players who can turn it on and off.”

Marshall’s next game at Duquesne is a reunion with second-season Dukes’ head coach Keith Dambrot, who led the Akron Zips against the Herd in several matchups.

Duquesne lost Friday to Pittsburgh in the City Game at PPG Paints Arena, 74-53.

Eric Hughes is a 6-6 sophomore leading the Dukes in scoring (14.2) and rebounding (7.8) while 6-8 sophomore Michael Hughes averages 12.7 points and 6.3 rebounds. Huntington High School graduate Tavian Dunn-Martin, a 5-8 sophomore who followed Dambrot from Akron, scores seven points a game.

The Dukes are scoring and giving up exactly the same amount of points, 72.3 to 72.3.

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