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Marshall basketball season tips off tonight

Marshall+men%E2%80%99s+basketball+guard+Jon+Elmore+drives+past+his+defender+from+West+Virginia+Wesleyan+in+the+Thundering+Herd%E2%80%99s+95-76+exhibition+win+on+Sunday+in+the+Cam+Henderson+Center.
Marshall men’s basketball guard Jon Elmore drives past his defender from West Virginia Wesleyan in the Thundering Herd’s 95-76 exhibition win on Sunday in the Cam Henderson Center.

Marshall men’s basketball guard Jon Elmore drives past his defender from West Virginia Wesleyan in the Thundering Herd’s 95-76 exhibition win on Sunday in the Cam Henderson Center.

Richard Crank

Richard Crank

Marshall men’s basketball guard Jon Elmore drives past his defender from West Virginia Wesleyan in the Thundering Herd’s 95-76 exhibition win on Sunday in the Cam Henderson Center.

Kyle Curley, Assistant Sports Editor

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Marshall basketball season is here. Both the men’s and women’s teams open season play tonight at the Cam Henderson Center. Marshall women’s basketball takes on the Longwood Lancers at 5 p.m. The men’s team will play host to the University of Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks at 8 p.m.

The men’s basketball team is coming off two victories in their exhibition play over West Virginia Tech and West Virginia Wesleyan with a combined 36 points.

“We are looking forward to it, and we have had some good practices,” Marshall men’s basketball head coach Dan D’Antoni said. “Now you find out where you are and grow during the season, and hopefully by the end of the year, you will be at your best.”

In its first exhibition game, five Marshall players reached double digits in points scored. Junior guard C.J. Burks led the Herd with 23 points.

“We scored pretty easy,” D’Antoni said. “We have not got the fluidity of our offense yet and were still able to put up 90 and 95 points. We scored pretty easily. Obviously, we have the chance to pressure up on people. It’s kind of what we’re trying to do. We have a long way to go, but we are on our way there.”

In the team’s second contest against West Virginia Wesleyan, the emphasis after the game was the improved defensive abilities of the team. Marshall shot just 9-37 from behind the arc, but managed to score 32 points off turnovers compared to Wesleyan’s five.

“Well, we have emphasized pressing defenses and pressure defenses, trying to get into the ball a little bit more than we have been able to in the past,” D’Antoni said. “For one night, it looked pretty good. We hope we can keep doing that. We expect to and hope to. We will have to wait and see. We will adjust during the season, I’m sure, several times but that’s what we are looking for. We are trying to get up into the ball a little bit more and turn them over.”

UT-Martin head coach Anthony Stewart leads over a roster that includes four returners and 10 newcomers. The Skyhawks have won 20-plus games for three straight seasons for the first time in program history. UT-Martin looks to make its fourth consecutive postseason bid after earning a program-best 22 wins during the 2016-17 season.

“I watched them all day today this morning,” D’Antoni said. “They lost some players, but they are all juniors, seniors and transfer students. They are an older group. They are more mature, and they have been successful the last couple seasons in the OVC (Ohio Valley Conference), finishing in the top part of it, and they will give us a run. We just have to come out and do what we do and see if we can’t come out on top.”

The Marshall women’s basketball team starts the 2017-18 season against the Longwood Lancers. It will be the first matchup for newly promoted Herd head coach Tony Kemper after serving as the assistant head coach for the previous five seasons.

Kemper is not the only new face on the women’s basketball coaching staff this season. Newly hired associate head coach Katie Pate made her way to Huntington from Lenoir-Rhyne University, where she served as head coach for the previous three seasons. Lenoir-Rhyne was ranked ninth defensively in the nation under Pate.

“I think the transition has actually been pretty smooth for me,” Pate said. “The relationship with our head coach Tony Kemper has been a very organic one that has developed over the last couple months. It’s a transition that I am used to. I was an associate head coach at one point earlier in my career, and I think the opportunity to kind of be someone’s right hand as he takes over a program and really starts to build something special here is something I look forward to.”

Marshall and Longwood have competed against one another four times over the years. The Herd leads the series 4-0. Most recently, the Herd grabbed a 20-point victory in 2016 in the Cam Henderson Center.

Richard Crank
In this Parthenon file photo, Marshall women’s basketball forward Talequia Hamilton goes up for a layup against Louisiana Tech in the Cam Henderson Center in the Thundering Herd’s 72-54 loss on Feb. 4, 2016.

Longwood welcomes 10 newcomers to the squad for the 2017-18 season. Four of Longwood’s top five scorers from the previous season return to the roster. However, the Lancers have lost their leading scorer from last season, Eboni Gilliam. The Lancers went 4-26 last season.

“I think Thursday night will probably be kind of Christmas Eve for a lot of people,” Pate said. “We have spent the last several weeks going against each other every single day. The two scrimmages were exceptionally helpful as we were starting to prepare for the start of the season. Everyone has healthy butterflies in their stomachs, and we are ready to put it to Longwood on Tonight.”

Fans can tune into both the women’s and men’s contests through Herd Vision on CUSA.tv.

Kyle Curley can be contacted at [email protected]

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