Men’s hoops returning home in clash for second place in Conference USA standings

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Megan Osborne

Redshirt freshman guard C.J. Burks pulls up for a shot in a game earlier this season.

The Marshall University men’s basketball team will go up against Middle Tennessee State University 7 p.m. Thursday in a game with second place in the conference standings on the line.

The Herd (10-10, 6-1) responded from its first conference loss to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Jan. 21 with a close road win against Old Dominion University Saturday.

In the 78-75 victory over ODU, forward James Kelly, who led the team with 21 points and 13 rebounds, hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with just four seconds left to put the Herd up by three.

Junior guard Stevie Browning said the team played solid defense toward the end of the game and the team’s overall effort throughout the contest instrumental in the victory.

Thursday, the Herd will play within the confines of the Cam Henderson Center for the first time since Jan. 9 after playing four straight games on the road.

The team achieved a 3-1 record over the course of that road trip, but players said it’s a relief to be playing in front of the home fans again.

“It feels great to be playing at home again after all the wins we got on the road,” freshman forward Jacob Kilgore said.

Browning said not having to stay in a hotel will be a pleasant change from the past couple weeks. He said he will be looking forward to getting a good night of sleep and playing in front of the home crowd as well.

The Herd will need to be at it’s best during its two-game home stand Thursday and Saturday as its facing off against two teams that are playing just as well as it is in conference play.

Middle Tennessee State is tied with Marshall for second place in the conference with a 6-1 record, while Saturday’s matchup with UAB pits the Herd against the 7-0 and conference-leading Blazers.

If the Herd was to win both games, it would secure a place atop the conference standings heading into next week, but such a scenario is unlikely if the Herd doesn’t maintain its focus during weekly preparation.

“The team needs to stay focused this week in practice and continue to play the way they have been playing,” Kilgore said.

Christian Hisman can be contacted at [email protected]