Thundering Herd welcome Akron looking to prolong win streak

— By Bill Cornwell

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall puts its five-game win streak on the line when takes a trip down memory lane this week as two old Mid-American Conference rivals, Akron and Ohio, pay visits to Huntington this week.

The Herd and Zips meet Wednesday night at 7 at the Cam Henderson Center. The game will be shown on ESPN+.

Marshall (5-1) comes into the matchup with the Zips on a five-game win streak. Its only blemish thus far came in the season opener at Queens University and the Herd enters off an 83-59 victory over Morehead State.

Akron (3-3) is back from a Thanksgiving week trip to the Caribbean where the Zips participated in the Cayman Islands Classic Basketball Tournament and went 1-2, defeating Western Kentucky 72-53 in the opener, before dropping games to LSU (73-58) and Nevada, 62-58.

Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni is excited by early season production from seniors Andrew Taylor and Taevion Kinsey, which have paired well with major contributions from true freshman Micah Handlogten and Jacob Conner.

“Taevion is finding ways to score but he’s also giving up the ball when needed and picking up assists,” D’Antoni said. “Andy has always been a scorer and he’s finding a lot of ways to put the ball in the basket.”

Kinsey averages a team-high 20.8 points and Taylor isn’t far behind at 20.

VMI transfer Kamdyn Curfman is averaging 11 points for Marshall. Handlogten is the Herd’s top rebounder at 10.5 on average to go with a team-high 13 blocks. Kinsey is the No. 2 rebounder at 5.5 per game.

Akron features a strong frontcourt and high-scoring backcourt scorer. Six-foot-1 senior guard Xavier Castenada is the Zips’ top scorer at 20.3 points. He opened the season with a 31-point effort in a win over South Dakota State and had 28 points in last week’s loss to LSU.

Junior forward Enrique Freeman, who stands 6-7, also scores in double-figures at 13.2 points. 

Freeman averages a double-double as he pulls down 10 rebounds per game to lead the Zips.

John Groce, who formerly was head coach at both Ohio and Illinois, is in his sixth season as Akron’s head coach. He has a 97-62 mark with the Zips and an overall record of 253-183.  He led Akron to the MAC Tournament title in March and a No. 13 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Zips gave UCLA all it could handle in a 57-53 loss.

Huntington native and junior Mikal Dawson, who played at both Huntington High and Huntington Prep, is on the Akron roster but will not play this season after surging an Achilles injury.

Marshall and Akron have met 27 times in the past and the Zips have a 14-13 series advantage. The teams last met last December 1 of last year in Akron and the Zips came away with an 88-86 victory.

After facing Akron, Marshall welcomes Ohio at 5 p.m. Saturday.

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