Men’s basketball seeks to end slump at home against UAB, MTSU


Richard Crank

Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni shouts instructions to his team during the Thundering Herd’s 116-106 overtime loss to UTSA.

The Marshall men’s basketball team is striving to excel in conference play as the non-bonus play portion of the regular season comes to an end at home against the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Middle Tennessee State University beginning Thursday night.

The Herd is coming back from its two-game road trip in Texas with losses against the North Texas Mean Green and the Rice Owls.

Marshall men’s basketball (13-12, 6-6 C-USA) is looking forward to getting back into its winning streak against UAB (14-11, 6-6 C-USA) as it is at battle for determining conference placement in bonus play for the C-USA Tournament that is set for next month.

“Stat wise, we are not shooting the ball well enough,” Herd men’s basketball head coach Dan D’Antoni said. “We have to shoot better. We are turning the ball over way too many times.”

D’Antoni said that the three senior guards, Jon Elmore, C.J. Burks and Rondale Watson, have to be efficient leaders for the Herd despite where the team is at with the season coming to an end.

“It has added pressure to them,” D’Antoni said. “But you can’t fight that. You have to put the pressure on them, and they have to overcome it. That’s what great teams do.”

Senior guard Jon Elmore continues to lead the Herd with 19.9 points, 5.0 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. Senior guard C.J. Burks follows behind with 18.4 points, 2.8 assists and 4.8 rebounds per contest. Sophomore forward Jannson Williams averages 8.9 points, 2.3 blocks and 4.7 rebounds. Freshman guard Taevion Kinsey has 8.7 points, 1.3 assists and 3.8 rebounds for the Herd. Senior guard Rondale Watson continues to boost the team off the bench with 7.0 points, 2.2 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard Jarrod West leads the Herd in steals, averaging 2.6 against the Herd’s opponents.

“40 minutes is going to be the key,” Elmore said. “(We’re) moving forward. We’ve shown a lot of glimpses, shown a lot of ups and downs. I still believe and everybody still believes, so I like our chances moving forward.”

The UAB Blazers have three players that average in double-figures in points per game. Sophomore guard Zack Bryant contributes 14.4 points and leads the team with 1.9 steals per contest. Redshirt senior forward Lewis Sullivan follows behind with 11.2 points and 6.6 rebounds and senior guard Jalen Perry has 11 points per game for the Blazers.

“(These are) very important games,” West said. “UAB is definitely, as far as rankings, better than Middle (Tennessee) but Middle did beat them twice. That just goes to show that we can’t take anybody lightly this week.”

If the Herd wins both of its games this week and has some help provided from other conference teams, namely Southern Miss and Western Kentucky, Marshall could end up in the top pod (first five teams ranked in conference bonus play). The Thundering Herd currently sits in a tie for sixth place.

“We got to take care of business,” West said. “We got to do what we are supposed to do and come out and ready to play this week.”

Tipoff is set for the first of two games for 8 p.m. eastern time on CBS Sports Network Thursday night against the Blazers, followed by 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoon against the Blue Raiders.

Taylor Huddleston can be contacted at [email protected].