Marshall can’t rest on its victory
HUNTINGTON - It’s OK to feel good about a victory, but a team can’t rest on it.
Marshall’s Thundering Herd (8-6, 1-0 Conference USA) came out of a non-conference skid to begin its men’s basketball league games Thursday with a 70-67 win at Old Dominion University and the season continues Saturday against Charlotte (3-9, 0-1) that dropped its conference opener against Western Kentucky, 68-50.
The Herd and 49ers meet at 4 p.m. Saturday at Halton Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina. Western Kentucky, defending champion Marshall and ODU were picked to finish one-two-three in the C-USA preseason poll while Charlotte was pegged 13th ahead of only Rice.
“This game is over and we have to stay confident no matter what happens good or bad,” Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni said after Thursday’s victory. “We’re going to Charlotte and they’re waiting on us. We’re a marked team.”
Marshall and ODU (10-4, 0-1) locked up in an intense contest at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Virginia, that wasn’t decided until the closing seconds.
Jon Elmore’s layup put Marshall up, 67-65, with 2:31 left. ODU missed three foul shots and two field goal attempts before Aaron Carver’s tip-in tied the teams for the 12th time, 67-67, with 23 seconds remaining. Marshall worked the clock down looking to go ahead.
Herd guard Jarrod West’s 3-point shot from the left corner with 1.9 seconds left on a feed from Elmore settled the issue.
“This is what Conference USA basketball is about. That was a dog fight,” West said. “Jon (Elmore) made a great pass and I knocked it down with confidence.”
D’Antoni said the Herd played like the team he was used to coaching because of its ball movement, good shooting, alertness and intensity.
Elmore, a 6-foot-3 senior point guard, topped Marshall’s scoring with 20 and dished 10 assists. Freshman Taevion Kinsey followed with 13 points, West netted 12 on four 3-pointers and 6-9 sophomore forward Jannson Williams scored 10.
The biggest move of the game was D’Antoni giving Kinsey, a 6-5 guard, his first start at the power forward position. Kinsey’s impact also included a 5-for-6 shooting performance (2-for-3 on 3-point shots), seven rebounds, three assists, three blocked shots and one steal.
Kinsey added some life to the pick-and-roll game with some quick moves to the basket and opened things on the perimeter for Marshall to connect on 52.7 percent of its field goals. ODU was second in the nation for field goal percentage defense at 35.2.
“When he (Kinsey) goes to the basket he loosens the defense up and we haven’t had that,” D’Antoni said. “That’s what Ajdin (Penava) did for us (last season). I was trying to fit the big guys, trying to get them in, but probably should have had him at the four (position) all along. He can handle the ball and make plays from the four position more like a point forward like (former Herd player) Ryan Taylor.
“Then when he goes down to the rim it’s real quick and it makes the floor get open and you get to see things better.”
B.J. Stith, a 6-5 senior guard, had a big game for ODU with 27 points, but Caver, a 6-2 senior, was the only other double-figure scorer for the Monarchs with 12. Carver, a 6-7 junior forward, grabbed 10 rebounds.
ODU had won eight straight and was 7-0 at home before the Marshall visit. ODU was fourth nationally in scoring defense allowing only 56.5 per game and the Herd put up the second-most points the Monarchs have allowed.
“We didn’t play bad, we didn’t play great,” ODU head coach Jeff Jones said. “The bottom line is we didn’t play well enough to beat a Marshall team that I think played at a high level. From the film I’ve seen that was about as good as I’ve seen them play.”
Charlotte senior guard Jon Davis (20.1 average), Elmore (19.2) and Marshall senior guard C.J. Burks (16.6) are three of C-USA’s leading scorers. Williams scores 9.3 a game for the Herd while 6-6 freshman Malik Martin contributes 9.5 for the 49ers. Davis plays for a league-high 36.9 minutes per game and Elmore plays for 34.9.
Western Kentucky outscored Charlotte by nine in both halves of their game Thursday. WKU’s biggest advantage was 25 with 5:12 left to play.
Davis tossed in 24 points for the 49ers and 6-9 freshman Dravon Mangum added 12 on a 6.4 average.
Charlotte head coach Ron Sanchez is in his first season after working for 12 years on the staff of Tony Bennett at Washington State and Virginia.
The 49ers rank last in the conference for scoring average (57.3), field goal percentage (39.7) and 3-point field goal percentage (27.2).