Herd men’s hoops takes on Eastern Kentucky to open season


Richard Crank

Marshall senior guard Jon Elmore claps during Marshall’s “Herd Madness” event at the Cam Henderson Center prior to Marshall’s first exhibition games. The Herd is picked to finish second in the C-USA preseason poll.

The Marshall men’s basketball team opens the 2018-2019 season today on the road against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels.

“We’re going to play hard,” head coach Dan D’Antoni said. “They’ll put on a show.”

The Colonels finished last season with a record of 11-20 (5-13 Ohio Valley Conference), and return their leading scorer senior Nick Mayo, the 6-foot-9 power forward. Mayo averaged 18 points and 6.7 rebounds per game last season.

Marshall finished last season 25-11 (13-5 Conference USA) overall and won the Conference USA tournament, resulting in the team’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in 31 years.

The Herd defeated Eastern Kentucky last season at home, 91-71, led by Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks scoring 26 and 25 points, respectively.

The two senior guards were the only pair of teammates in the country to average 20 points per game in the 2017-2018 season.

“It’s very unusual to have two guards average 20 points,” D’Antoni said. “Just looking forward to watching them do some spectacular things.”

The Herd comes into the game today having won its two exhibition games against Glenville State and West Virginia Wesleyan.

Marshall will feature many new faces to the team, including the anticipated debuts of freshmen Iran Bennett and Taevion Kinsey in actual game action. Bennett figures to replace Ajdin Penava, who is playing overseas in Spain, in the starting lineup this season.

Kinsey put on a show during the dunk contest for spectators during Herd Madness, its purpose to increase anticipation for the upcoming season.

“I knew (Kinsey) was athletic, but I didn’t realize how smart he was,” D’Antoni said. “He surprised me with his fundamentals.”

When discussing the game against the Colonels, Kinsey said, “I’ll just play the game that I know, use my minutes wisely when I get in the game, and use them to the fullest.”

Point guard Jarrod West, now a sophomore, will look to build on his legacy that was highlighted during the NCAA Tournament in March.

“He plays like a senior,” D’Antoni said. “Whichever team he is on in practice usually wins. He hit a pair of big threes against Wichita State.”

D’Antoni also referred to the hometown West and Elmore as “gym rats” and said they are “hard working, West Virginia kids.”

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. in the Alumni Coliseum in Richmond, Kentucky. The Herd looks to start the season 1-0 on the road, building momentum for its return home to play Hofstra on Sunday.

Michael Morgan can be contacted at [email protected].