After a 77-65 loss in game one, the Thundering Herd bounced back in game two, winning in a 73-72 struggle to split the series with North Texas.
With senior guard Jarrod West out of the lineup for game two after taking a hard fall in game one, D’Antoni made major adjustments to the starting lineup.
The starting lineup included two regular starters – redshirt sophomore guard Andrew Taylor and junior guard Taevion Kinsey – and three new starters – senior forward Mikel Beyers, freshman guard David Early and sophomore center Goran Miladinovic.
Taylor willed Marshall to victory, posting a stat line of 20 points, five rebounds, five assists and a career-high six steals. He also shot 7-10 from the floor and a perfect 5-5 from three-point range.
Kinsey said that Marshall came to play with more purpose and gave props to Taylor on a stellar performance.
“Overall, we came out with way better energy,” Kinsey said. “(Andrew Taylor) was hot coming out of halftime, and he really won the first five minutes (of the second half) by himself.”
Kinsey had a bounce back game in the second matchup with North Texas. He put up 18 points, seven rebounds and two steals opposed to the 12 points, one rebound and one steal in game one.
For North Texas, senior guard Javion Hamlet stepped up his game in game two. After only shooting 3-14 in game one, he shot 10-15 from the field and 6-7 from three-point range, scoring 28 points.
The scoring barrage by Hamlet was not enough for a North Texas comeback in game two; Marshall stood its ground.
However, game one went almost completely the way of the Mean Green, with Marshall never leading in the contest. North Texas, the No. 1 scoring defense in Conference USA, held the No. 1 scoring offense in Marshall to a season-low 65 points in game one.
Senior guard James Reese started out hot and finished strong for North Texas, putting up 21 points and shooting an efficient 8/11 from the field. After Marshall cut the lead to three points, Reese practically put the game away with two straight three pointers.
Despite 18 turnovers in game one, North Texas used its stingy defense and 40 points in the paint to come away with the victory.
Head coach Dan D’Antoni said that the Herd got outplayed in every facet of the game.
“(North Texas was) getting the loose balls,” D’Antoni said. “They were quicker, they were more aggressive and more physical than we were.”
With the series split, Marshall maintained third place in the east division of Conference USA while North Texas fell to second place in the west divison.
Marshall is scheduled to host the Charlotte 49ers at the Cam Henderson Center on Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.
The two-game series will be the final regular season games for the Herd.
Noah Hickman can be contacted at [email protected]