Marshall hopeful holiday break sparks improved play with tough test at Louisiana Tech on tap

— By Bill Cornwell

For Marshall’s men’s basketball team, the hope is a near week-long Christmas break has provided relief to a struggling squad.

Having suffered three straight losses, the Herd (7-6) opens league play on the road Thursday night with a 9 p.m. game at C-USA preseason favorite Louisiana Tech. The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU.

Marshall and the Bulldogs have met 14 times in the past and Tech leads the series 9-5. The teams split a pair of games in Ruston, Louisiana last season.

Shooting woes have led to Marshall’s recent problems as the Herd has shot 37 percent, 40 percent and 32 percent during the losing streak, which has featured double digit setbacks at Ohio, against Northern Iowa and at Toledo. The 3-point numbers have been even worse, including 22.9 percent in the 95-63 loss to the Golden Rockets. Marshall also shot less than 42 percent from the free-throw line in that contest.

Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni wants his club to not dwell on missed shots or other mistakes, but commit to improvement.

“You can’t remember what you’ve done in the past because it means nothing,” D’Antoni said. “We have a good team and I want these young men to give me their best shot and play the game the way it should be played.

“Everything is still out there in front of us, but we just have to get our game on a higher plane.”

Louisiana Tech (9-3) last played on December 22, a 99-56 win over Crowley’s Ridge College. The Bulldogs losses this year came to Alabama, LSU and North Carolina State.

Erik Konkol is in his seventh season at Louisiana Tech and has a 138-68 record.

The Bulldogs’ top player is preseason All-Conference USA performer Kenneth Lofton Jr. Lofton is a 6-foot-7, 275-pound redshirt freshman forward from Port Arthur, Texas who is also on the watch list for the Naismith and Karl Malone awards. Lofton averages a double-double with 18.1 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Other double-figure scorers for Tech include senior guard Amorie Archibald (13.6 ppg), sophomore forward Isaiah Crawford (11.3 ppg) and sophomore guard Keaston Willis (10.7 ppg). Junior forward Stacy Thomas contributes five rebounds on average.

The Bulldogs shoot 47.2 percent from the field, 32.3 percent from the 3-point line and 73.9 percent from the free throw line. They also average 16 assists and 6.8 steals per game.

Taevion Kinsey is still Marshall’s top scorer at 19.7 points per game. Other double-figure scorers are Obinna Anochili-Killen (13 ppg) and Andrew Taylor (12.9 ppg).

Anochili-Killen is the Herd’s top rebounder at 6.8 per game and he’s averaging 4.6 blocks per contest. Taylor leads the squad in assists and steals.

The Herd is second in the nation in blocked shots per game at 7.2, trailing only Auburn. Anochili-Killen is second nationally in total blocked shots with 61, trailing only Western Kentucky’s 7-foot-5 Jamarion Sharp, who has 65 swats.

Marshall was scheduled to play Saturday at Southern Miss for its second C-USA contest, but that matchup has been postponed due to COVID protocols within the Golden Eagles program. Southern Miss’ scheduled contest Thursday against Western Kentucky was also postponed.

After Thursday, the Herd is next scheduled to play January 8 when it welcomes Florida Atlantic for the home opener in league play.

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