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Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

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JMU Ends Herd’s Tournament Hopes

Nate+Martin+tallied+his+16th+double-double+in+the+final+game+of+the+season.
Courtesy of HerdZone
Nate Martin tallied his 16th double-double in the final game of the season.

An up-and-down season for Marshall Men’s Basketball came to a close Saturday, March 9, in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament quarterfinals, with the James Madison Dukes besting the Herd 81-64 in Pensacola, Florida.

“They came to play and we didn’t,” senior Obinna Anochili-Killen said. “It’s a tough pill to swallow.”

Marshall and JMU traded the lead early in the first half, but the Dukes began to pull away from the Herd midway through the game’s first stanza, aided by a 22-4 scoring run against Marshall’s defense. 

JMU out-rebounded Marshall 24-16 and stole the ball from the Herd five times in the first half, compounded by the fact the Dukes hit five more shots from the field in the first half to lead the Herd by 15, 44-29, at halftime.

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Marshall was outscored again in the second half by JMU, 37-35, and the Herd fell by the wayside in the contest as it couldn’t keep pace with the Dukes’ shooting – primarily during the first half rather than the second half.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do as a program,” head coach Dan D’Antoni said. “We’ll try and get all the guys that come back to be better. We’ve got to go find some guys – we’ve signed two already and need two more to bolster up the lineup and get back to championship form.”

Marshall entered the contest as the Sun Belt’s #10 seed, fresh off of an 86-74 victory on Thursday, March 7, in the conference tournament’s second round over Georgia State. As the conference’s #2 seed, JMU was awarded a bye through each of the first two rounds of the tournament. It was the Herd that ended up as the Dukes’ first opponent, and, for the third time this season, JMU bested Marshall.

Five players for the Dukes ended up scoring points in the double-digits, whereas the Herd only produced three: Obinna Anochili-Killen with 15 points, Nate Martin with 13 and Kevon Voyles with 12 in his final contest for the Herd. Voyles scored a career-high 30 points a contest ago versus Georgia State.

“It’s tough,” said Nate Martin, who scored his 16th and final double-double of the year in the contest. “Obviously, we want to come out and win, you know? They punched us in the mouth. It was too little, too late by us.”

Kamdyn Curfman, a game removed from scoring a career-high 30 points versus Georgia State, was suffocated by the Dukes’ defense. Curfman, who shot 9-12 from outside a game prior, was just 1-4 from outside the arc and 1-9 from the field across 30 minutes of play in his final game for Marshall. 

Voyles and Curfman combined for 60 of the Herd’s 86 points versus Georgia State. Against JMU, Voyles and Curfman only managed 16 combined points to contribute to the Herd’s 64-point total. Out of three contests this season versus the Dukes, the 64-point effort was Marshall’s best versus JMU’s stout defense, which limited the Herd to just 52 and 58 points in both regular-season matchups.

Even in defeat, D’Antoni found the silver linings of the dark clouds that hung over the Herd program for the second half of the season, marred by a 7-game losing streak to close out the regular season before the underdog victory against Georgia State in tournament play.

“I love basketball. I know I’m the oldest basketball coach in the country, but I love basketball,” D’Antoni said, adding,  “I love my players.”

Marshall finishes its 2023-24 season with an overall record of 13-20, alongside a conference record of 7-11. 

“I’ve been coaching for 50 years,” D’Antoni said. “I’ve been curled up on the couch in the fetal position, and I’ve jumped up to the sky yelling, ‘Way to go.’ I’ve done it all, and I enjoy it. I’m proud of these young men.”

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