Marshall men’s basketball defeats Old Dominion in front of record crowd

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Marshall University freshman guard C J Burks goes after the ball Thursday against the University of North Carolina at Charlotte at the Cam Henderson Center.

The Marshall University men’s basketball team defeated Old Dominion University Saturday, 82-65, in front of a record crowd at the Cam Henderson Center.

The official attendance for Saturday’s contest totaled 8,520, the largest audience for a Marshall basketball in more than five years.

“We’re getting a good student crowd who’ll keep coming,” head coach Dan D’Antoni said postgame. “[A student crowd] who will enjoy being with each other and having a good feeling for where we are at Marshall, where we live in Huntington and the state of West Virginia.”

Junior forward Ryan Taylor posted a double-double with 23 points on 8-13 shooting and 12 rebounds in the Herd’s win.

In addition to Taylor’s performance, senior forward James Kelly and junior guard Stevie Browning each scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the victory, while sophomore point guard Jon Elmore dished out 10 assists to go with nine points.

D’Antoni said while the individual offensive performances and 82 points as a team would be impressive for most college basketball squads, the 82-point outing, which was the lowest point total for the Herd in three weeks, felt more like a grind-it-out performance.

“We scored 82 points, a lot of points against a team like that,” D’Antoni said. “But it was a grind 82. Sometimes you have those easy, free-flowing 82s, but every shot we got was difficult. To get 82 points against this team speaks highly of our team.”

Defensive-minded games are typical for the Monarchs, who have the top-scoring defense in Conference USA, allowing 62.5 points per game.

However, in Saturday’s contest, Marshall embraced the defensive component of its game plan as well, particularly against Old Dominion guard Trey Freeman, who scored 37 points in the teams’ last matchup.

Browning and Elmore shared the assignment of guarding Freeman, and even though he scored 20 points, he did not force Marshall to a last-second victory as he did in Norfolk, Virginia Jan 23.

“We had faith in each other that we could do our part to make sure that he doesn’t go for 37 again,” Browning said.

Taylor said not only did Browning and Elmore play tough defense on Freeman, who made the All-Conference USA first-team last season, but the team as a whole showed commitment on the defensive end. 

“We just played good defense,” Taylor said. “We knew Freeman was a heck of a player coming in. (Browning) and (Elmore), they did a great job tonight on him.”

Marshall moved to 11-3 in conference play with Saturday’s victory and remain second in the conference standings, just one game back of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

However, the Herd has the opportunity to dispose of the Blazers place atop the conference standings 8 p.m. Thursday when it travels to Birmingham for its second matchup of the season with the Blazers.

The Blazers are 22-5 this season and 12-2 in conference action.

Brad Heltzel can be contacted at [email protected].