6:00: Morning News

Herd closes strong, gets by Wright State in opener

— By David Walsh

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Taevion Kinsey made two free throws with 4:46 left to give Marshall the lead for good at 78-77, and the Thundering Herd pulled away from that point to defeat Wright State, 96-88, Friday night in the season-opener at Cam Henderson Center.

Attendance was 4,781 for the first game with full attendance possible at Henderson Center due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Attendance was restricted last season. Fans still must wear a mask inside the arena.

Kinsey finished with a game-high 22 points thanks to making 14-of-14 free throws. Point guard Andy Taylor added 15 points and 11 assists.

“You know whoever scheduled this opening game first is nuts. That’s a tough season opener. They’re a quality opponent,” Herd coach Dan D’Antoni said. “Basile is a special inside player. (Tanner) Holden is good. Rodney (his dad and former Thundering Herd standout Rodney Holden) should be proud of him. We really upped the defense at the end. Now that we won it’s a great schedule.”

Wright State (1-1) is a member of the Horizon League.

Taylor and Kinsey first admitted it was nice having a crowd for a change.

“When we came out right before the game, it felt really good,” Taylor said. “We’re back.”

“Give thanks to the crowd,” Kinsey said. “We feed off their energy.”

Freshman Aymeric Toussaint made all five shots from the field and hit for 13 points before he fouled out. Marko Sarenac blocked a career-high four shots and the Herd rejected nine overall. Obinna Anochili-Killen swatted away four.

“I don’t know where that came from,” D’Antoni said of Sarenac’s board work.

Raiders forward Grant Basile led all scorers with a career-high 37 points before he got foul No. 5 with 3:10 left. Holden scored 25 points. Tim Finke had a game-high 11 rebounds.

Anochili-Killen had five points, Kinsey four and Taylor two as part of an 11-2 run to give Marshall the edge for good with 4:46 to play. The Herd used a pair of 4-0 runs and Kinsey made his final six free throws in the final minute to finish off the Raiders.

Kinsey, who is from Columbus, hit double figures for the 35th straight game. Taylor’s double-double was No. 4 for his career. Marshall’s depth showed as well as it enjoyed a 35-5 edge in bench points. The Raiders had no bench points in the second half.

Marshall is back in action Monday at home against Milligan. Tipoff is 7 p.m.

“It felt like a boxing match,” Kinsey said. “I felt like we were fighting the entire game. I’m glad we showed the team can fight. We made the right decisions down the stretch. The last eight minutes the guys wanted to step up to the challenge.”

Marshall won last year’s meeting at Wright State so Taylor knew the Raiders would be motivated.

“Lot of talking last year,” Taylor said. “I knew they’d come in and try to get us back. Any kind of competitor does. I like that. Down the stretch, it was at some point we have to buckle down. It’s not going to happen anymore and we did it. We’re going to be in a lot more crazier environments than this.”

D’Antoni said Kinsey was just being Kinsey with even better times to come as the season unfolds.

“Iso him a lot at the end of the game,” D’Antoni said. “He knows the ball is coming to him. He’s athletic, he gets above people. He does that, they can’t stop him. The special for him has become ordinary. He makes everybody play as a unit.”

“Rotations. I think we did well. I think the team got stronger and stronger. There’s still room for improvement. Two warriors go from beginning to end. We’ll figure it out.”

One area of focus between now and Monday is turnovers. Marshall finished with 21.

This was the first of five straight road games for Wright State. Holden, a 6-foot-6 guard, played high school ball at Wheelersburg, Ohio, about 45 minutes from Huntington.

Marshall has four straight home games before a Nov. 27 road trip to Indiana of the Big Ten. After Milligan, the Herd takes on Campbell on Thursday, Jackson State on Sunday (2 p.m.) and Louisiana on Nov. 23.

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