Protecting rim a point of emphasis for Herd ahead of matchup at Akron

— By Bill Cornwell

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall continues a brief road trip Wednesday as the Thundering Herd visits the Akron Zips for a 7 p.m. tip.

The Herd (4-2) lost Saturday night at Indiana, 90-79. Marshall hung tough with the Hoosiers throughout the contest, but couldn’t overcome their inside strength as IU’s junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis torched Marshall by scoring 43 points.

Akron (3-3) returns home after going 1-2 in last week’s Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Florida. The Zips’ last game in the event resulted in a 69-60 win over Evansville.

The Zips are led by head coach John Groce, who has a 72-52 record in his fourth season in Akron.

Marshall’s emphasis in preparing for Wednesday’s game is improving its inside defensive presence after Jackson-Davis endured little difficulty and the Hoosiers scored 50 points in the paint.

“Some of that you’ve just got to man up,” Herd coach Dan D’Antoni said. “We’ve got to challenge our kids to man up and then we’ve got to have an alternate attack.”

Much of Monday’s practice dealt with offering defensive double teams at the basket to counter an Akron offense that presents somewhat similar challenges to those offered by Indiana.

Akron is led by 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Enrique Freeman, who averages 12.5 points per game. Other double-figure scorers for the Zips are 6-8 sophomore Ali Ali (11.2 ppg) and 6-1 junior guard Xavier Castaneda at 10 points per game.

“They play inside-out,” D’Antoni said. “We’ve got to work defensively on just guarding the post and how to rotate and bring in help. We’ve got to get better at it.”

Freeman is the Zips’ leading rebounder at 11.2 per game.

Akron brings some size off of the bench in the form of 7-foot freshman center Aziz Bandaogo from Senegal, who chips in with 5.5 points per game, 4.3 rebounds and is the team’s top shot blocker.

Junior guard Taevion Kinsey still leads Marshall in scoring at 19.8 points per contest. Other double-figure scorers for the Herd are redshirt freshman forward Obinna Anochili-Killen (14.3 ppg), senior forward Darius George (13 ppg) and junior guard Andrew Taylor (12.2 ppg).

Anochili-Killen is Marshall’s top rebounder at 8.5 per game and he’s also recorded 33 blocks in six games. Taylor leads Marshall in assists with 41.

The teams have met 14 times in the past, with the Zips leading the series 8-6. The last matchup was in December 2019, an 85-73 Akron win in Huntington at the Cam Henderson Center.

After the game in Akron, Marshall returns home and will welcome Duquesne on Saturday. That game will start at 7 p.m. at the Cam Henderson Center.

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