Thundering Herd looks for its game

February 14, 2019
Marshall's C.J. Burks, right, talks with teammate Jannson Williams (3) before a play as the Herd takes on UTSA in a Conference USA men's basketball game Feb. 2 at the Cam Henderson Center in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — Playing the Marshall Thundering Herd way means spacing the court, making quick decisions, setting screens, running pick-and-roll plays and making shots, but that hasn’t been happening lately.

The Herd needs to rediscover how to play Marshall men’s basketball, forward Jannson Williams said.

“I don’t see any reason why we should ever lose to anybody in this conference if we play Marshall basketball,” Williams said. “We have all the parts. They call Jon (Elmore) ‘Jonny Buckets’ for a reason. We have the most athletic guard (C.J. Burks) in Conference USA. We have the best defender (Jarrod West) in Conference USA. We have the most athletic ‘four’ man (Taevion Kinsey) in the country.

“We just have to play Marshall basketball.”

The 6-foot-9 sophomore from Newnan, Georgia, averages 8.9 points with 4.8 rebounds and his 53 blocked

shots (2.1 per game) is third in C-USA. He had 14 points, a personal-best 12 rebounds and three blocks Saturday in his second career double-double game when Rice beat the Herd, 74-69, in Houston.

Marshall, 13-12 for the season, lost six of its last seven games and fell into a C-USA tie for sixth place with UAB (14-11) at 6-6 and those teams face off at 8 p.m. Thursday in Cam Henderson Center in a CBS Sports Network telecast.

Williams said nothing is better than playing at home, where Marshall leads the league with average crowds of 6,627 spectators a game.

“This is heaven in here,” he said. “Everybody is so loyal to us. They’re here for us. They want what we want. I just want everybody to stay with us no matter what.”

Students on campus and people around town are asking Williams what’s wrong with Marshall and he says, “Just stay with us, be on our side and believe in us.”

Williams said the Herd is trying to repeat last season when it won the conference championship after a fourth-place regular-season finish and earned its way into the NCAA Tournament.

Head coach Dan D’Antoni’s system is simple and easy to run, but players need to be disciplined, Williams said.

“We run ball screens, and everybody in the NBA is doing that,” Williams said. “It’s simple, but we have to keep doing the same things because they work. Stick with what works. I’ll catch myself not screening the ball when I’m the five man (center) and that’s my job, but I’ll catch myself out on the 3-point line.

“It’s mental, but I’m not ever going to give you an excuse.”

Williams said the conference overall is better than anybody anticipated and nothing is out of the question in the final weeks of the regular season.

C-USA’s pod scheduling format kicks in Saturday night after teams have completed 14 games. For their four remaining games, teams will play within in pods based on the standings (first to fifth, sixth to 10th, 11th to 14th). A preset formula determines home and away pod games for Feb. 23, Feb. 28, March 3, March 6 and March 9.

When the 18-game regular season is completed, the top 12 teams will be locked into C-USA Tournament seedings within their pod. For example, teams in the second group (sixth to 10th) will be seeded no higher than sixth and no lower than 10th in the tournament.

“I give (credit) to Conference USA,” Williams said. “We’re a lot more athletic and a lot more competitive and have a lot more talent than we thought we were going to be. Charlotte (last place) is giving everybody a game. Middle Tennessee (tied for eighth) lost their coach and half their team and they’re out there giving everybody a fight.

“Everybody is competitive.”

Next game

UAB (14-11, 6-6) at MARSHALL (13-12, 6-6)

When: 8 p.m. Thursday

Where: Cam Henderson Center, Huntington

TV: CBS Sports Network

Radio: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM, WMUL 88.1-FM

Tickets: HerdZone.com