Second place in conference standings up for grabs in Marshall, Louisiana Tech matchup

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Richard Crank | The Parthenon

Junior forward Ryan Taylor drives past a defender in a game against UTEP last season. Taylor’s 14.4 PPG ranks third on the team this season.

The Marshall University men’s basketball team is set to take on Louisiana Tech University 7 p.m. Thursday at the Cam Henderson Center in a game that has major implications on the Herd’s seeding heading into the conference tournament next week.

Marshall has an 11-5 record in conference play, putting it in a tie with Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee State University for second place in the conference standings.

If the Herd win Thursday and pick up a victory Saturday in the team’s regular season finale against the University of Southern Mississippi, it will earn the number two seed in the conference tournament putting a lot at stake in the final two games of the season.

“It’s very important, there is a lot riding on this week for us,” junior forward Ryan Taylor said. “We win both we get second, we win one we get a bye.”

Members of the team said they are confident they can earn victories in both games and playing both games in the comfort of their home arena is a substantial factor.

“We will be fine,” Taylor said. “It will be kind of easy because we are back at home in front of our home crowd and that makes a lot of difference.”

The Herd experienced the complications that can come from playing on the road last week, when it dropped a pair of games to conference-leading University of Alabama at Birmingham and Middle Tennessee State.

However, the players said they have erased those games from their memory.

“We got those two losses out of our heads already, so we have already moved well past that,” guard C.J. Burks said.

With so much on the line Taylor said the team can ill-afford to focus on anything but its last two regular season contests.

“This team knows what is up for grabs and we are going to perform at the best level we can no matter what happens,” Taylor said.

The Herd will lean on its efficient play on the offensive end of the floor in its game Thursday. Marshall is currently leading the conference in scoring during conference play, but Louisiana Tech possesses offensive firepower of its own, ranking second in the conference in scoring.

“We need to stay together,” Taylor said. “We know they are going to make their runs. They shoot a lot of 3s just like us; we need to stay locked in for 40 minutes and play good on the defensive end.”

“If we stick to the game plan, make shots and play hard, we will be fine,” Burks said.

Christian Hisman can be contacted at [email protected]