Photo courtesy of Marshall athletics
Marshall basketball had one thing on its mind this weekend and that was to sweep the Charlotte 49ers.
That it did, winning 75-67 on Friday night and 75-66 on Saturday afternoon at the Cam Henderson Center. Along with sweeping Charlotte, Marshall needed rival Western Kentucky to sweep Old Dominion, but by 10 p.m. ET on Friday night, the hope the Thundering Herd had for the No. 2 seed in the Conference USA East division had been dashed as Old Dominion came back to win, 71-69.
So the Herd settled for the next best thing — the No. 3 seed on the east side of the bracket for next week’s Conference USA Tournament. It will be held at The Star in Frisco, Tex.
The 49ers came out hot on Friday night as they went up 9-2 with 16:40 left in the first half. Marshall redshirt sophomore guard Andrew Taylor hit a three-pointer that sparked a 17-3 run as it went up 19-12 with 11:11 left in the first half.
The 49ers then went on a quick 6-0 run to get the deficit within one, 19-18. A few minutes later, the Herd took it to the 49ers for a 17-5 run that resulted in a 47-31 lead at halftime.
Taylor started the second half with a jumper and a triple to give the Herd a 21-point lead — their largest of the contest. The 49ers continued to fight and went on a 13-2 run that cut the deficit to 10, 54-44 with 14:56 left in the game.
The Herd got their lead out to 19 again with 5:50 left in the game, but the 49ers weren’t done yet as they scored 17 of the game’s final 23 points. That wasn’t enough though as the Herd were able to gut it out and win 75-67.
“I think we played a little too lax and I also feel like we didn’t finish that game the way we should’ve,” guard Taevion Kinsey said. “Tomorrow, we need to come back in, stay focused overnight, it’s a quick turnaround. We’re just happy to pull out that win. We need it right now.”
The green and white got out to a hot start as Marshall jumped to a 13-0 lead behind two-three-pointers from Jarrod West, a three-pointer from Taylor and a layup from Jannson Williams. Kinsey capped it off with a dunk.
The 49ers immediately answered with a 16-3 run of their own to bring the deficit to one, 19-18, with 9:35 remaining in the first half.
“We used to say in the NBA a lot as assistant coaches, ‘Beware of the early lead,’” head coach Dan D’Antoni said. “You jump out there real quick and a lot of they think they’ve got it and ease back into it and the next thing you know the other team has the momentum.”
The Herd went on another quick run. Charlotte answered with a run to tie the game at 27 all with 4:41 left in the half. Both teams continued to trade baskets to go into the locker room knotted up at 34-34.
The game was very back-and-forth to start the half. With 12:20 left in the half, the teams were again tied — this time 46-46. The Herd would go on a 15-2 run to take control and an 11-point lead with 8:12 left in the contest.
The Herd cruised in the final eight minutes and were able to hold the 49ers off. Marshall hit its final eight shots to nail down the 75-66 victory.
Prior to the contest, Marshall honored five seniorshonored on Senior Day: Mikel Beyers, Darius George, Luke Thomas, West and Williams.
“It was a battle,” Kinsey said. “I’m glad we won that for our seniors. We won that as a team and now, we’re ready to go to Frisco.”
CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS
Between both games for the Herd, Kinsey combined for 42 points, 16 rebounds and four assists. Taylor combined for 38 points, 12 boards, seven assists and four steals. Williams totaled 26 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks.
Marshall went a perfect 14-for-14 from the free throw line. It marked the first time since Jan. 20, 2018 against UAB in which it made all of its free throws with at least 10 attempts.
With two steals in the contest Saturday, West surpassed UTEP’s Randy Culpepper for second-most career steals in C-USA history with 252. West is 12 from tying Charlotte’s Eddie Basden for the conference record.
In next week’s Conference USA Tournament, the East No. 3 seed Marshall will take on the winner of Rice and Southern Miss on Wednesday. That contest begins at 7 p.m. ET on can be seen on ESPN+.
The East division’s No. 5 seed Charlotte will take on the West No. 4 seed. That one takes place Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+.