HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Kareem Canty scored 26 points and Ryan Taylor added 22 points and 14 rebounds, yet Marshall fell to Conference USA newcomer North Texas 80-65 in its league home opener Thursday night.
The Herd (6-12, 0-3) hadn’t lost its first three conference games since the 2006-07 season, in what turned out to be the final year for coach Ron Jirsa. Marshall’s RPI dipped to 305 with the loss, its 10 in the last 11 games against Division I teams.
The Mean Green (10-7, 1-2) picked up its first ever win in C-USA play behind 20 points and 10 rebounds from Jordan Williams.
North Texas used a 17-5 run to take an 18-point lead with 9:05 to go in the first half, and it held a double-digit lead until the 4:02 mark of the second half when Canty’s two free throws cut the deficit to eight.
“We dug ourselves into a hole the first 10 minutes of the game, and we came back, but we put too much effort into coming back instead of coming out like we should have came out,” Taylor said.
North Texas took advantage of Marshall’s poor 3-point shooting by grabbing long rebounds and throwing outlet passes for easy layups before the Herd could transition back on defense. North Texas scored 67 of its 80 points from the paint and the free-throw line.
“We had to come in with great energy and great focus and I felt like if we did that we would have a chance to win a game,” North Texas coach Tony Benford said. “In the first half we mixed up our defense. On makes we went zone, on misses we went man, and our guys did a great job executing our game plan.”
That defensive pressure forced the Herd into a season-low 23.7 percent shooting from the field in the first half. Meanwhile, the Mean Green exploded out of the gates shooting 53.3 percent. North Texas outrebounded Marshall 42-41 for the game.
Outside of the 48 combined points from Taylor and Canty, the rest of the Herd roster managed just 17 points. Marshall coach Tom Herrion said his team needs more balance.
“We didn’t have enough support. They had good nights, but it wasn’t enough,” Herrion said. “We don’t want to rely on those two guys going that crazy. We didn’t finish other scoring chances.”
All nine scholarship players available to the Herd got into Thursday’s game, with JP Kambola (eligibility issue), Yous Mbao (injury), Justin Edmonds (redshirt) and Elijah Pittman (suspension) unavailable to Herrion. That is compared to 11 players seeing action for North Texas.
Marshall hosts Tulsa on Saturday at noon, for the final time as Conference USA foes. Tulsa fell in overtime at Charlotte 90-86 on Thursday night.
— Braxton Crisp