— By Bill Cornwell
Marshall jumps into the madness of March late Wednesday as the Herd meets the UTEP Miners in the opening round of the Conference USA Tournament in Frisco, Texas.
The game is scheduled to tip at 10 p.m., and will be shown by ESPN+.
Marshall (16-15, 10-8) is the tournament’s sixth seed, while the Miners (17-14, 8-10) are seeded 11th.
Both teams enter C-USA Tourney play off wins; Marshall was victorious at UTSA last Saturday, 82-77, and UTEP knocked off Rice on the road that same day, 77-71. Marshall has won four of its past five games and the Miners are on a four-game win streak.
The teams met nearly a month ago in El Paso, with Marshall walking away with a 71-61 win. MU junior forward Mikel Beyers scored 18 points in that contest, while the Herd was led on the boards by junior forward Jannson Williams and junior guard Jarrod West with six each.
A key for Marshall will be to slow down the Miners’ main offensive threat, junior forward Bryson Williams, who scored 23 points and grabbed six rebounds against the Herd on Feb. 15. Williams, who was named this week to the all-conference first team, averaged 17.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard Souley Boum (12.9 ppg) and graduate guard Daryl Edwards (12.7 ppg) are also primary scorers for the Miners.
Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni will likely use multiple defenders in an effort to slow down Williams, including Williams, Beyers and fellow junior forward Darius George.
Marshall and UTEP have played 18 times in the past, with the Miners winning 11 times.
The winner of tonight’s game plays another late game Thursday at 10 p.m., against No. 3 seed Louisiana Tech. Marshall picked up an 83-79 overtime win over the Bulldogs in Huntington on Feb. 8.
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Several Marshall players picked up conference honors announced this week.
Sophomore guard Taevion Kinsey was a second-team All-Conference USA pick. Kinsey led the Herd in scoring at 16.1 ppg and chipped in with nearly five rebounds per contest.
West was a third-team all-league pick and was named to C-USA’s All-Defensive team. West is second on the team scoring 14.4 per game, while racking up 65 steals and 73 assists, both tops on Marshall. West is seven steals away from Marshall’s all-time record, held by 1980s star Skip Henderson.
Freshman guard Andrew Taylor is a member of the Conference USA All-Freshman team. Taylor is averaging just under 10 points per game and he’s been especially strong late in the season, even recording a double-double in a win over Florida Atlantic on March 4. Taylor was named last Sunday as the league’s final Freshman of the Week for his play in wins over FAU and UTSA.
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Marshall’s women also open in the C-USA Tournament Wednesday, taking on Southern Miss at noon.
MU is the No. 8 seed in the women’s tournament with a 12-17 record (7-11 in the league), while the Golden Eagles are the ninthh seed with a 15-14 record and identical 7-11 mark in the conference.
The Herd won at Southern Miss, 80-65 in the only meeting this season between the two teams.
The winner of today’s game will face top seed Rice at noon Thursday in the quarterfinals.