Burks, Marshall race past FIU for fifth straight win


Richard Crank

Dan D’Antoni has his squad at 5-0 in Conference USA play for the first time since the 2015-16 season. Marshall is the lone remaining unbeaten team in C-USA play.

The Marshall Thundering Herd men’s basketball team defeated Florida International University, 105-97, on Saturday in a fast-paced Conference USA matchup at the Cam Henderson Center. Strong performances by senior guard C.J. Burks, freshman guard Taevion Kinsey and senior guard Jon Elmore helped the Herd secure its first 5-0 conference start since the 2015-2016 season.

Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni said he has to give the win to his team.

“We have a gritty team,” D’Antoni said. “They will get in there. Small, big, little– it doesn’t matter. They grit it out, and I’m proud of them.”

The Herd appeared to be in sync throughout the game. Burks scored a game-high 30 points, going 11-for-15 in field goals, 4-for-6 on 3-pointers and a perfect 4-for-4 in free throws, while Elmore followed close behind with 29 points, going 9-for-19 in field goals, 1-for-6 from behind the arc and 10-14 in free throws. Kinsey scored 20 points, going 10-15 in field goals, including eight dunks.

Burks said that he loves the fast pace, and when he sees a guy one on one, he loves to attack the basket.

“[I] take everything that is given to me,” he said. “It starts up with the athletic ball. When we get the ball moving, with the pace that coach [D’Antoni] stresses every day, it just opens up a lot of things and makes making plays easier.”

Florida International, similarly, seemed in sync. Junior forward Devon Andrews scored a team-high 23. Senior guards Brian Beard Jr. and Willy Nunez Jr. added 16 points apiece to keep the score close.

D’Antoni said he wasn’t surprised the Herd was not able to pull away from Florida International.

“[FIU] has beaten some people now,” D’Antoni said. “They just beat Western Kentucky, and Western is a tough out right there, and they played hard. They’re not coming into us like they may go to Charlotte or go to Texas. Our kids are starting to understand that. We are the hunted, and they want us.”

Similarly, Elmore said that the pace of the game was 100 percent what they had expected.

“Brian Beard is an all-league guy,” Elmore said. “They push the ball, they shoot quick shots and play a little bit similar to us, just a bunch of picks and rolls getting up and down the court. I thought we executed really well. We countered it. They are a good team, and they battled the whole way. We never really pulled away at all because they just made tuff shot after tuff shot.”

With the win, Marshall advanced its record to 12-6, while Florida International fell to 12-7.

D’Antoni said the Herd has a tough weak ahead but that they “will give it all they got and will see what happens.”

Marshall will play its next game Monday night at E. A. Diddle Arena, when the Thundering Herd travels to Bowling Green, Kentucky, to take on Western Kentucky University in a Conference USA matchup. Tipoff is slated at 9 p.m. EST.

Millard Stickler can be contacted at [email protected].