By David Walsh
HUNTINGTON, W. Va. – Andrew Taylor matched his season high with 20 points and Marshall held off a late North Texas charge to escape with a 73-72 Conference USA win Saturday afternoon in front of 1,228 fans at Cam Henderson Center.
Taevion Kinsey had 18 points and seven rebounds for the Thundering Herd (13-6, 7-5 C-USA).
Javion Hamlet had 28 points and made a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left to pull North Texas within one. The Mean Green, which had trailed by 14 points with 9:30 left, did get a shot to win it. However, Hamlet’s floater just before the buzzer didn’t go and the Herd’s Jannson Williams got the rebound as time
North Texas (13-7, 9-3) had its four-game win streak snapped. James Reese added 15 points. Thomas Bell had 13 points.
Hamlet hit six-of-seven from three-point range and netted 22 points in the second half.
Marshall played without senior guard Jarrod West, ending consecutive games played run at 123. David Early got the start and contributed 32 minutes. Goran Miladinovich got in for a career-high 22 minutes.
The win gives the Herd a weekend split.
“You looked at the stats sheet (from yesterday, and the (Zachary) Simmons kid was 7-for-10, and they were getting threes,” Herd coach Dan D’Antoni said. “Goran, and others have earned their starts. Andrew (Taylor) really played well. Mikel (Beyers) seems to be coming along. It is really giving us numbers. I decided to stop the post. Mikel is an adventure on the floor. You put the ball in Andy’s hands and let him go. Him and Taevion (Kinsey) work well together. David Early came in and contributed well as a freshman.”
Mean Green coach Grant McCasland said it was Marshall making the plays this day, unlike Friday night when the visitors had the upper hand.
”Give credit to Marshall,” McCasland said. “They came to play and were the tougher team. They did the small things We should have never been in that hole, but weren’t the tougher team.”
Taylor, sophomore guard, added five assists and career-best six steals. He made five-of-five from behind the arc, but converted just one-of-five free throws. Kinsey added a team-high seven rebounds.
Marshall scored 18 of the final 27 points in the first half to lead 35-33 at the break. The Herd opened the lead to 42-39 with 18:17 left and never trailed from that point, including surviving the North Texas rally.
The Herd used runs of 8-0 and 15-4 to take its largest lead at 14 (65-51) with just under 10 minutes left. The Mean Green countered with a 12-0 run to cut the margin to 65-63 win five minutes to play.
Down the stretch, Hamlet tallied nine of his points and Kinsey scored the final eight for the Herd.
Marshall is 1-2 when it holds teams to 79 or less points and 3-3 when it scored 79 or less points.
Marshall and the Mean Green were even in rebounds 31-31. North Texas won that stat by 14 Friday night.
Marshall will end the regular season next weekend at home against Charlotte. Game times are Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.
D’Antoni said the missing energy from Friday arrived Saturday. And the Herd’s numbers are getting better as numerous players see action and contribute.
“They have pride,” D’Antoni said “They got bullied (yesterday). They’re not going to get knocked like that and stay out. We did everything like normal, and we operate like human beings. We’re still standing, and we have to keep playing hard.
“The worst thing that could probably happen to a coach is to have too many options where mistakes could be made. I told the North Texas coach that Andrew (Taylor) is probably one of the best players here. He has had to piece himself together, like Jarrod (West), did for a few years. That was a hard-fought win. Overall, we came out with way better energy. If you can win the first five minutes, you can win the game.”