— By Bill Cornwell
Marshall’s search for late season momentum continues as the Herd faces rival Western Kentucky on Saturday for the second time this week.
Saturday’s game at E.A. Diddle Arena tips off at 3 p.m. in Bowling Green, Kentucky and can be seen nationally on ESPN+.
The teams met in Huntington on Wednesday night, and WKU (18-12, 10-7) came away with a convincing 86-72 win over the Herd (11-19, 4-13). Junior guard Taevion Kinsey scored 24 points for Marshall in what could be the last home game of a successful career at Marshall.
Sophomore guard Andrew Taylor chipped in 18 points for Marshall.
Western Kentucky had two 20-point scorers in the game — graduate guard Camron Justice (a career-high 27 points) and sophomore guard Dayvion McKnight (23 points). Seven-foot-5 junior center Jamarion Sharp had a huge impact on the game with a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds, as well as five blocks.
While Marshall’s struggles continue with a 3-3 record in the last six games, the Hilltoppers have won eight of their last nine contests.
With the Conference USA Tournament in Frisco, Texas just a few days away, Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni is still concerned by his team’s lack of consistent play.
“We don’t make big plays when we have to and the other teams keep getting away from us,” D’Antoni said. “For whatever reason, we’re not disciplined enough to stay in what we do.”
Marshall knows that it will be playing Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the opening round of the Conference USA Tournament against Florida International. Still to be determined is which team will have the sixth or seventh seed.
The Hilltoppers can clinch the second seed in the East Division by defeating the Herd again. A Marshall upset would give the No. 2 seed to Florida Atlantic.
Kinsey (18.9 ppg) and Taylor (14.5 ppg) continue to lead Marshall in scoring, along with freshman forward Obinna Anochili-Killen (12 ppg). The trio also lead the Herd in rebounding, topped by Anochili-Killen’s 6.4 boards per game.
McKnight (16.1 ppg), Justice (14.9), senior forward Jairus Hamilton (13) and fifth-year guard Josh Anderson (12.4) all average scoring in double figures for the Hilltoppers.
Sharp (7.3 rpg) is WKU’s leading rebounder, but Hamilton and McKnight bring down better than five boards per game.
Sharp is second in the nation in blocked shots with 135, trailing only Auburn’s Walker Kessler, who has 138.