— By David Walsh
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Morehead State stayed within striking distance for about three-fourths of its game Saturday night against Marshall at Cam Henderson Center.
At 61-52, the Eagles trailed by nine with 6:36 left. Enough of this must have been the Thundering Herd’s thinking at this juncture.
Marshall outscored its Interstate 64 rival 22-7 from that point to pull away for an 83-59 victory and excite the crowd of 4,315.
Switching to a zone for part of the second half made a difference as well as the Eagles struggled from the outside against a taller lineup.
“The zone helped us,” Herd coach Dan D’Antoni said. “We’re long and tall. We can play a zone. When you make shots, you play better defense. Made better adjustments, but it shouldn’t have to come to that (going to zone)”
The Herd keeps possession of the Ellis T. Johnson trophy which goes to the winner of the game. Johnson coached the Eagles from 1936-1953. He was coach at Marshall from 1963 to 1969.
Marshall enjoyed runs of 13-0 and 15-2 late in the second half to break open the once-tight game.
Andy Taylor scored 19 points to lead the Herd. Freshman Jacob Conner had 15 as did Taevion Kinsey. Micah Handlogten had a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds. Cam Kurfman netted 10 despite going 3-of-12 from three.
Handlogten’s double-double are highs in points and rebounds. The 7-foot-1 freshman went 6-of-6 from the field.
“Jacob had a great game,’ D’Antoni said. “A lot of stuff goes into his game. He’s doing the things we have to do to win. Micah’s a lot stronger than he looks. He can get in there. He’s so smart.”
D’Antoni gave Curfman, a three-point bomber, a break in the second half as he was struggling with his shooting. When he went back in, Curfman hit two straight treys to push the lead to 67-52 with 5:57 left.
“It’s a touch thing,” D’Antoni said of Curfman. “It’s hard to do. He struggles to be who he is. Go out, take some time off. Goes back in, hits a three and boom, boom, boom.”
Mark Freeman and Alex Gross each had 16 points to lead the Eagles, the preseason pick to win the Ohio Valley Conference. They made just one of 10 threes in the second half. Gross led in rebounds with eight.
Marshall, in its first year in the Sun Belt Conference, is 5-1 after its fifth straight win. The Herd returns to action Wednesday at home against Akron. Tip is 7 p.m. Ohio visits Henderson Center on Saturday with a start at 5 p.m.
Morehead State (3-4) returns home Tuesday to play Kentucky Christian. Tipoff at Ellis Arena is 7 p.m.
Marshall had a big edge in points off turnovers, 25-15; points in the paint, 48-22; fast break points, 18-5; and assists 17-6. The Herd blocked five shots.