Herd men’s basketball finishes Texas two-step, takes on UTEP


Richard Crank

Junior guard C.J Burks prepares to reviece a pass from junior forward Ajdin Penava. Burks continues his five-game streak of leading the Herd in total points scored, as he comes off a 29-point scoring performance against Western Kentucky.

Following its clash with the UTSA Roadrunners Thursday, the Marshall  University men’s basketball team continues its swing through the Lone Star State when it takes on the UTEP Miners Saturday evening at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas.

The Herd is looking to bounce back from a road loss this past Saturday to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in front of a sold-out Diddle Arena, 85-74. The Herd took the Hilltoppers to the last minute, and Junior guard Jon Elmore said despite the loss, the team took a big step forward.

“We showed that we’re right there with them,” Elmore said before the team departed for San Antonio Wednesday morning. “Up four points with three or four minutes left in the game, it should have been our game but we let it slip; but it showed glimpses of how good we can be. It’s all about piecing 40 minutes together and I think we’re getting closer to playing full games.”

Head coach Dan D’Antoni said the players understand the importance of putting the loss behind them and focusing on the next opponent.

“Win or lose, you always play the next game,” D’Antoni said. “I think our kids understand that, and they have for the last three years I’ve been here.”

Heading into the weekend, Marshall sits in fourth place in C-USA, 2.5 games behind the league-leading Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders. With nine games remaining in its regular season schedule, D’Antoni said it is vital for the Herd to continue to compete at a high level, inorder to make a run late into the tournament.

“We’ve got to keep our standards and raise our play so that we try to get one of the top four spots and give us a better chance in the tournament,” D’Antoni said. “Either way, it’s another ballgame and we’ve got to do well.”

After fighting injury and illness coming into conference play, Elmore said the team chemistry is starting to show on the court.

“It’s gotten better each game. We’ve been put in some tough situations this year and I think a lot of the stuff we’ve seen during the regular season is stuff we’ll see toward the end of the conference season and in the conference tournament,” Elmore said. “I think we’ll be well-equipped as we move forward and hopefully start running off some W’s.”

Marshall will put that chemistry to the test as it plays four of its next six games on the road, a stretch that Elmore says can be taxing.

“It’s tough,” Elmore said. “You’re missing classes, you don’t have the home Henderson Center fans behind you rooting you on, so there’s a lot of adversity. That’s when you have to come together as a team and make your own energy and really show what you can do together. You have to lock in and execute.”

Luke Creasy can be contacted at [email protected].