Herd snaps four-game skid, defeats Middle Tennessee


Richard Crank

Marshall guard Taevion Kinsey (1) celebrates a dunk during the Thundering Herd’s game against Middle Tennessee at the Cam Henderson Center.

Six Marshall players reached double figures in scoring Saturday afternoon, as the Thundering Herd snapped its four-game losing streak with a 98-93 win over Middle Tennessee inside the Cam Henderson Center.

“I thought we played with the heart and the passion we have been missing for a while,” Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni said.

The Herd’s offense had six players scoring double figures its first of the year, while also leading for the first time this season in bench points to win the game over Middle Tennessee.

Senior guard C.J. Burks contributed a team-high 20 points, going 8-for-16 in field goals, 1-for-4 in 3 pointers, and 3-for-5 in free throws, while senior guard Jon Elmore dropped 19 points. Senior guard Rondale Watson followed close behind with 17 points off the bench and sophomore forward Jannson Williams scored 16. Freshman guard Taevion Kinsey tallied 13 points in a reserve role, while sophomore forward Darius George added 11 points in his first career start.

D’Antoni said it was a great game for the Herd.

“(West) did a good job. (Burks) was strong and we have been missing that. (Elmore) was really strong there at the end,” he said.

Elmore said that the Herd had contributions from everyone.

“When we get guys contributing every night going through how many guys play. You come in with energy. You run our system. You believe in yourself and believe in what we are tying to do as a team. I think we are as good as anybody in the country and I stand by that.”

Despite the balanced effort, the Herd’s offense found itself going shot-for-shot with Middle Tennessee throughout the contest with both teams scoring 41 first-half. The Herd put up 57 points in a well-rounded second half, compared to Middle Tennessee’s 52.

Burks achieved a career high six steals to help the Herd win the turnover battle, 16-9. George grabbed a team-high seven of the Herd’s 25 rebounds to help keep the Herd in scoring contention.

Watson said that George brought the energy in the contest.

“(George) brought that extra effort that we have been needing, that extra boost,” he said. “I thought everyone did good. Everyone contributing that is what it takes to win.”

Similarly, D’Antoni said that it was a big lift for George.

“(George’s) eyes have brightened up in the last month,” he said. “It is kind of what we have expected of him all along. Just sometimes life treats you a little unfairly and you got to get back up. He has gotten back up and he can be the difference with (Elmore), (Burks), just making that constant play from your seniors.”

With the win the Herd advanced its record to 14-13 and 7-7 in Conference USA play, where it achieved the seventh seed by virtue of winning a tiebreaker in a four-way tie, while Middle Tennessee fell to 8-19, and 5-9 in conference play. Marshall will be in the second pod of Bonus Play, while Middle Tennessee is in the third pod.

D’Antoni said that he does not know anything about the Bonus Play system.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I am kind of a change artist myself. If you are going to be a change artist and make things change you can’t predict outcomes or decide if there is going to be failures or winners before you do it. There are no total guarantees about anything. I don’t know what is going to happen. Everybody is in the same boat. So, it is what it is and after it is all done and evaluated. We will see if we need to go forward with it or that will be it.”

The Thundering Herd returns to action with road games in Bonus Play at Louisiana Tech on Feb. 28 and at North Texas on Mar. 3. Marshall’s final two home games come against FIU on Mar. 6 and Florida Atlantic on Mar. 9.

Millard Stickler can be contacted at [email protected]