By David Walsh
MIAMI – In a game of runs, Marshall had the best run when it counted. At the end.
Darius George banked in a 3-pointer to break a 62-62 tie and propel the Thundering Herd past Florida International, 89-72, Saturday afternoon at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center for a sweep of the two-game Conference USA series.
George’s big three came with 9:02 left in the game and triggered a strong closing surge as seen by the 27-10 scoring edge in the closing minutes.
Taveion Kinsey, the league’s top scorer at 20 per game, responded after an off Friday with 22 points and 12 rebounds, team highs in both categories and another double-double. He had 10 points in Friday’s 79-66 win.
Andy Taylor continued his strong play with 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting along with six rebounds. Freshman David Early (Logan, W.Va.) hit for a career-high 14 and George closed with 10.
“The kids I thought when they got their legs back under them, they played fairly well,” Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni said of the Herd’s post-game radio show. “Got great contributions from Early and from George. Andy’s getting better and better. TK is starting to come back to his old self.”
FIU, which has lost four straight, got to within six at 72-66 on a Dante Wilcox layup with 6:35 to play. The Herd put the clamp on that comeback with a 9-0 run to make it 81-66 with 4:05 to go.
FIU (8-8, 2-6 C-USA) entered the game averaging 11 three-pointers per game and finished 11-of-35 from behind the arc. Jauvante Hawkins led FIU with a career-high 20 points coming off the bench. He had six threes. Antonio Daye Jr. finished with 18.
“Those guys move the ball,” D’Antoni said. “You’ve got to guard them every inch. You have to cover the entire area.”
D’Antoni’s record against the Panthers now is 9-1 with nine straight wins after a loss in the first meeting after took over the Herd.
Marshall (9-4, 3-3 C-USA) returns home to play Florida Atlantic in a C-USA twinbill next weekend. Game times are Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m. C-USA teams are playing on successive days over the weekend due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Attendance is limited. Saturday’s game had 128 fans due to COVID-19 protocols.
George’s go-ahead three got his coach chuckle on the sideline.
“I turned around to laugh at the assistant coaches,” D’Antoni said. “He’s always good for one bank every game. He gives you his heart.”
Early continues to progress as he continues to trim down.
“He’s responded so far,” D’Antoni said about Early’s weight loss. “It will help with his feet. Be better at the defensive end. He’s starting to do what he does in practice.”
The first half was a series of runs as well. The Panthers went on a 10-0 run to go from 15-14 behind to 24-15 ahead for its biggest lead.
Marshall would later go on 9-0 run to pull even at 24-24 and Early would moments later score to put the Herd up 28-26. George would then make a 3-pointer to give the Herd a 30-26 lead thanks to a 15-2 surge.
Taylor’s 3-point play and a three-pointer by Jannson Williams 10 seconds before halftime gave the Herd a 43-36 lead at the break.