By Bill Cornwell
HUNTINGTON – Barring any further Covid-19 issues, Marshall returns to action this weekend with a pair of Conference USA games with the Herd’s top league rival.
Marshall (7-2, 1-1) travels to Western Kentucky (9-4, 2-2) for a Friday evening contest which starts at 5 at Diddle Arena, while the two teams will face each other again on Sunday afternoon at 2 at the Cam Henderson Center in Huntington.
Friday’s game will be televised nationally by CBS Sports Network, while Sunday’s game can be seen on the CBS Sports Network Facebook Live page.
Positive Covid-19 tests, contact tracing and injuries prevented Marshall from hosting Charlotte in a two-game series last weekend, while WKU split two games with Louisiana Tech, winning Friday by a 66-64 score, but losing Saturday 63-58.
Marshall last played on New Year’s weekend, splitting a pair of games at Louisiana Tech.
This week’s games will showcase each team’s strengths–Marshall’s Jarrod West-Taevion Kinsey backcourt combination against WKU’s tough front-line led by junior center Charles Bassey.
West and Kinsey, along with point guard Andrew Taylor, will have to create offense, limit turnovers and force Hilltopper turnovers for Marshall to thrive this weekend.
Kinsey continues to lead Marshall in scoring, averaging 21.4 points per contest. West averages 13.4 points and nearly 3 assists per game, but his biggest impact may come on defense, where he averages just over 3 per game.
Senior forward Jannson Williams is Marshall’s other double figure scorer, averaging 10 points per game.
Western Kentucky was predicted to win Conference USA this season, but early results have been mixed with a pair of weekend series splits with Charlotte and Louisiana Tech.
Bassey has not been a disappointment. The Wooden Award watch list member and C-USA Preseason Player of the Year is averaging a “double-double” with 16.8 points per game and 11.8 rebounds. Junior guard Taveion Hollingsworth averages 14.8 points per game. Strong senior guard Josh Anderson averages just over 10 points per game. Anderson and Hollingsworth are also WKU’s top steal threats.
Freshman guard Dayvion McKnight has been a surprise for the Hilltoppers, leading the club in assists at 45 this season.
Marshall Head Coach Dan D’Antoni says fans should expect to see a lot of 7-foot sophomore center Goran Miladinovic this weekend as the main defender against Bassey, but he’ll be aided inside by Williams, Mikel Beyers and possibly two players who been battling injuries–freshman Obinna Anochili-Killen and senior Darius George.
“There’s going to be times that Goran may need help,” D’Antoni said. “I don’t think he’s as developed inside as Bassey, so he may need some help. We’re going to have to team defend Bassey a little bit and scheme it a little bit differently.”
D’Antoni also hopes to draw Bassey away from the basket in order to limit his rebounds and possibly wear him down if he has to guard perimeter forwards such as Williams and Beyers.
After this weekend, Marshall travels to Miami for games on January 22nd and 23rd at FIU.