By David Walsh
HUNTINGTON, W. Va. – Marshall raced out to a 21-point lead early in the second half and went on to defeat Charlotte, 75-67, in Conference USA men’s basketball Friday night at Cam Henderson Center.
When Andy Taylor nailed a three-pointer with 18:22 left, the Thundering Herd (14-6, 8-5 C-USA) boosted its lead to 52-31. Charlotte (9-14, 5-10 C-USA) could only get as close as the final score as the 49ers suffered their seventh straight loss.
Herd coach Dan D’Antoni joked in the post-game radio show and news conference he needed to work on pregame and halftime pep talks.
Charlotte opened a 9-2 lead early and the Herd once led by 16, then got it to 21 before settling on the final margin.
“It’s not working,” D’Antoni said with a laugh. “Got to change what I’m saying, something. Lead by 16, they get it down to 10. Didn’t finish like we wanted. Andy (Taylor) and Taevion (Kinsey) were spectacular. Jannson (Williams) came through for us.”
Kinsey, the No. 2 scorer in C-USA, led the Herd with 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Taylor made 7-of-12 shots and netted 17 points and got eight boards. Williams finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and five of the team’s eight blocks before fouling out late.
Jordan Shepherd paced Charlotte with 15 points. Anzac Rissetto added a career-high 14, Brice Williams 13 and Jahmir Young 12.
Marshall nailed seven of its nine threes in the first half.
“They tried to stop the lob dunks and we found the other side,” D’Antoni said. “We’ve got a 6-8 kid (Williams) and 6-10 kid (Mikel Beyers) who can shoot that distance. We executed well. Shot like we expected. We’ve got good shooters. When they tried to stop the lobs, it spreads the floor and we’re hard to guard.”
For Williams, it was his first game in double figures since Jan. 15 when he got 19 against Western Kentucky.
Jarrod West, Marshall’s senior guard, played 26 minutes and did not score. D’Antoni rested West and his sore ankle extensively in the second half with the big lead.
“Andy and Taevion stepped up big,” D’Antoni said. “As long as we keep those two guys going, we’ll be tough to beat.”
“Comes with chemistry,” Taylor said about how the team played without West. “Some dudes get hurt and don’t do anything. He’s out cheering us, telling us to do it like he does.”
Stadium carried Friday’s game live. It’s also down to air today’s contest at 2 p.m. It’s Senior Day for Marshall. The players to be honored include West, Williams, Beyers, Darius George and Luke Thomas (junior who has graduated).
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19 protocols, seniors can return for another year if they so choose.
“They’ve got a tough decision,” D’Antoni said. “It will be interesting times.”
Charlotte started well, but the Herd then took over. The 49ers opened a 9-2 lead with 16:21 left in the first half. After that, it was pretty much the Herd and its patented three-point shooting.
Marshall went on a 7-0 run to take a 14-11 lead with more than 13 minutes left in the half. Then it was a jumper by Taylor and dunk by Williams off a pick-and-roll with :39 before the break for a 47-31 lead.
“We had a slow start and picked it up,” Kinsey said. “We were a little too lax in the second half. Didn’t finish like we should.”
Williams and Kinsey each scored 13 points for the Herd in the first 20 minutes.
Young led Charlotte with 10 points. The 49ers hit just 12-of-28 shots from the field, including 2-of-9 from three-point range.
Marshall now leads the all-time series against Charlotte, 12-7. Next week, all C-USA teams head to Frisco, Texas for the league tournament. Competition will start Tuesday. This series was scheduled Jan. 8-9, but got postponed due to COVID-19 and contract tracing in the 49ers’ program. Attendance on Friday was 1,076 due to COVID-19 protocols.