— By David Walsh
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Florida Atlantic led from start to finish and defeated Marshall, 90-77, Saturday night in front of 4,115 fans at Cam Henderson Center.
The Owls had not played since December 21 when they lost at High Point. Their opening Conference USA series against Charlotte and Old Dominion last weekend was postponed by Covid-19 protocols.
The Thundering Herd (7-8, 0-2 C-USA) suffered its fifth straight defeat.
Poor shooting from the floor again plagued the home team. Marshall made 25-of-58 shots compared to 30-of-58 for the Owls (8-6, 1-0 C-USA).
“We’re trying to learn how to win,” Herd coach Dan D’Antoni said. “We’re trying to figure out how to play big in big moments.”
Michael Forrest led FAU with 27 points and Alijah Martin backed him with 17. Giancarlo netted 11. Forrest nailed two big three-point shots in the final two minutes to ice the contest.
“When I caught the ball, it just felt good coming off my hand,” Forrest said of the key treys. “Once it went in, I knew the game was over. It just felt good for it to go in. It’s a great feeling. It gave us momentum going into the next game on Thursday. It just feels good to win.”
Obinna Anochili-Killen paced Marshall with 23 points, but he did not have any blocked shots. He came in No. 2 in the country with 62. He took seven treys and made five.
“He’s my sharpshooter,” D’Antoni said. “Don’t know where that came from.”
Taevion Kinsey scored 20, but struggled again from the field (8-of-21, 0-of-5 from three).
“He started to get his rhythm in the second half,” D’Antoni said. “He got to the rim, would finish. Got to get him into his rhythm. I’ve got confidence he’ll find it. When he does, we’ll become a better ballclub.”
In bench points, FAU enjoyed a 35-6 edge.
“I was very, very pleased with out bench,” FAU coach Dusty May said. “Those guys made major contributions and we found a way to win. I’m very happy that everybody who played in the game for us contributed. We need that going forward.”
Marshall converted a three-point play at 7:44 to cut the deficit to five, 72-67. But the Owls scored the next six points to thwart the rally.
“In the second half we started getting our offense going,” D’Antoni said. “We tried a new offense. Tried to slow things down a bit. Probably not the time to do that.”
Marshall didn’t have starters Darius George or Goran Miladinovic available for duty. Guard Andrew Taylor got cleared Saturday morning, meaning he had not practiced all week.
Although D’Antoni had said earlier in the week that Taylor would be unavailable, he played all 40 minutes, but was held to eight points and two assists, so playing from behind made the task even more difficult.
“We’re not good enough to get behind,” D’Antoni said. “That’s big. We’re not playing consistently offensively as we need to. When you don’t play well, that digs into your defense. It’s a long road. I’ve been here before. We have enough talent. Just got to win.”
In the first half, Marshall made 12-of-35 shots including 5-of-15 from three.
FAU hit 14 of 30 on the way to a 40-32 lead at intermission. The Owls once led 32-14 before Marshall charged back.
Forrest led the Owls with 13 points. The visitors had an early surge, 11-0, to put the lead at 22-8. They led the entire half.
Anochili-Killen paced Marshall with 10 points. Kinsey had just five points on 2-of-10 from the floor (0-of-4 from three).
Marshall will return to action next Thursday against North Texas at the Henderson Center. Game time is 7 p.m. Rice will visit on Saturday, also at 7 p.m.