Herd’s Williams: We’re ‘ready to go to war’
HUNTINGTON — Virginia’s defense was outstanding, and Old Dominion’s is just as good.
Marshall’s Thundering Herd struggled to make many shots Saturday on the road, connecting on only 35.1 percent, and lost at No. 4 Virginia 100-64. Virginia is 12th in NCAA Division I men’s basketball for field goal percentage defense (37.6) and fourth in fewest points allowed (51.4).
Old Dominion leads the nation in field goal percentage defense (35.2) and is fourth in points allowed (56.5).
Marshall (7-6) begins Conference USA play in a 7 p.m. Thursday matchup with Old Dominion (10-3) at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Virginia. The game is televised by Stadium on cable stations Comcast Ch. 133, Suddenlink Ch. 125 and Armstrong Ch. 94.
Forward Jannson Williams said the Herd needs to be more focused.
“We had no drive to succeed (against Virginia),” he said. “We go over things in practice and we didn’t bring that over to the game. We had everything for everything they had. For some reason we weren’t disciplined enough to bring it into the game. That includes me.
“This game (Old Dominion), whatever we practice we have to bring it onto the court.”
A full slate of C-USA games is on tap Thursday. Two league games were played Saturday when North Texas won at Rice (103-87) and Louisiana Tech won at home against Southern Miss (71-56).
Marshall, the defending champion picked to finish second behind Western Kentucky in the C-USA preseason poll, skids into its league games after dropping six of its last nine including games against power-conference foes Maryland, Texas A&M and Virginia. Old Dominion is on an eight-game win streak that includes winning at then-No. 25 Syracuse.
After going 9-4 last season in non-conference games, Marshall rallied at the end to capture its first C-USA championship and recorded the program’s first NCAA Tournament win, against Wichita State.
“We are very excited,” said Williams, a 6-foot-9 sophomore averaging 9.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. “We’ve been in training camp, I’d guess you could say. Postseason starts (Thursday), and that’s exactly what we’re excited for. Whenever conference play comes around, that’s when I’m ready to go to war, and I think I can say that for everybody.”
“Everybody (in C-USA) has played whoever they’ve played. Everybody knows who we are and we know who everybody else is. That makes it more fun and competitive.”
Marshall senior point guard Jon Elmore leads the team with 19.6 points and 4.8 assists a game while snagging 4.3 rebounds, but had only 14 points against Virginia following six-point outings against Maryland and Texas A&M.
Elmore was the conference leader last season with 22.7 points and 6.7 assists.
“He’s been struggling the last three weeks of the season,” Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni said, noting the Herd’s lack of rhythm caused by not having a player such as 6-10 forward Ajdin Penava, whose presence in the lane last season created angles for Elmore.
Senior guard C.J. Burks is second on Marshall’s scoring list with a 17.5 average followed by Williams, senior guard Rondale Watson (7.5 points, 4.6 rebounds), 6-7 sophomore Darius George (6.6 points, 3.8 rebounds), freshman guard Taevion Kinsey (6.4 points) and sophomore guard Jarrod West (5.9 points).
The ODU Monarchs are 7-0 at home and their average home attendance of 6,213 per game ranks second to Marshall (6,456) in the conference.
Old Dominion head coach Jeff Jones made a plea to fans for their support this week in games against Marshall and Western Kentucky.
“Our fans have a reputation for being very supportive,” Jones said in a release. “You throw in the fact that these are our first conference games and they were picked ahead of us, we really need our fans to come out in full force to support this team. Let’s make it the best environment in Conference USA by a mile.”
Ahmad Caver, a senior guard, averages 18.0 points for the Monarchs with 6-5 senior forward B.J. Stith close behind with 17.5. Stith also collects 8.5 rebounds per game. Caver received C-USA Player of the Week honors Monday after Stith was recognized for three consecutive weeks.
The Monarchs score 66.4 points on average compared to the Herd’s 80.6 and are plus-5.4 in rebounding. Marshall is the weakest rebounding team in the conference at minus-8.5.
“They’re a very athletic team and we can’t take them for granted,” Williams said. “They kind of have the same kind of offense Virginia has, setting those down screens and coming off real quick, circling around and popping out. We’ve been practicing for that and hopefully what we practice we bring on the court.”
Marshall’s stretch of five straight road games ends Saturday at Charlotte (3-8) with a 4 p.m. game against the 49ers in Halton Arena. Western Kentucky (7-6) visits Charlotte on Thursday.
CONFERENCE USA PRESEASON POLL
3. Old Dominion
4. North Texas
6. Louisiana Tech
7. Southern Miss
9. Middle Tennessee
12. Florida Atlantic
MARSHALL (7-6) at OLD DOMINION (10-3)
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Ted Constant Convocation Center, Norfolk, Va.
TV: Stadium (Comcast 133, Suddenlink 125, Armstrong 94)
Radio: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM