— By Bill Cornwell
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The wait for a victory continues for Marshall men’s basketball. The Herd’s losing streak stands at four heading into Saturday’s Conference USA home matchup with Florida Atlantic.
Tip-off at the Cam Henderson Center is 7 p.m., and the contest can be seen on ESPN+.
Marshall (7-7, 0-1) last played December 30 when it was soundly beaten at Louisiana Tech, 79-56. The Herd’s scheduled New Year’s Day game at Southern Miss was postponed due to Covid-19 issues in the Golden Eagles’ program.
Florida Atlantic (7-6) had conference home games with Charlotte and Old Dominion wiped out due to Covid-19. The Owls last played on December 21, a 55-52 loss at High Point.
Marshall will be without without starting point guard Andrew Taylor and center Goran Miladinovic due to covid protocols. The Herd will also be minus some support staff and one assistant coach due to the same issues.
Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni is still seeking improved shooting from the team’s top scorer Taevion Kinsey and much of his supporting cast.
While Taylor won’t be available Saturday, he and Kinsey struggled against the Bulldogs and combined for 9-of-30 shooting. Kinsey scored 13 points against the Bulldogs, six points below his average of 19.2. As a team, the Herd shot 29.4 percent from the field at Louisiana Tech as well as a frigid 20.7 percent from the 3-point line.
D’Antoni is optimistic that his two leaders are due to eventually turn things around.
“Our two guards, Andy and Taevion, is who I’m going with because I believe in them and I trust them. We somehow have to fight through to where they start having the games they are capable of having,” D’Antoni said.
Redshirt freshman Obinna Anochili-Killen led Marshall with 15 points in the Louisiana Tech loss. He is still the No. 2 scorer on the team with a 13.1 average and leads in rebounds at 6.9 per game.
D’Antoni has hinted that players such as senior Mikel Beyers and redshirt sophomore Jeremy Dillon might start seeing more playing time as he seeks a spark to ignite a struggling team.
“We’ve made critical mistakes when it really hurt you and we didn’t make shots when you have to have them to stay in the ballgame and be competitive,” D’Antoni said. “That’s all it is. It’s nothing more than that. Those are things that are fixable. If you look at the stats, we’re not that far away.”
Marshall and FAU have met 12 previous times and the Herd has a 9-3 series advantage. The teams did not play last season.
FAU is led by head coach Dusty May, who has a 54-47 record and is in his fourth year in Boca Raton.
The Owls have no wins over Power 5 programs and have lost to New Mexico, Miami, Troy, James Madison, VCU and High Point.
Junior Guard Michael Forrest leads three Owls averaging double figures at 14.3 ppg. Freshman guard Alijah Martin averages 12.8 ppg and sophomore guard Bryan Greenlee is at 10.6 ppg.
Seven-foot-1 freshman center Vladislav Golden, from Nalchick, Russia, is FAU’s top rebounder at 5.6 per game, followed closely by Martin at 5.2 rebounds.
The Owls shoot 45.5 percent from the field and 34.5 percent from the 3-point line, but their free throw shooting percentage is 64.3.