Marshall clamps down defensively to prolong win streak at Robert Morris

— By David Walsh

Not the prettiest night on offense for Marshall. On defense, a much different picture and a big reason the Thundering Herd toppled Robert Morris, 69-60, Saturday night in front of 1,627 fans inside the UPMC Events Center in Moon Township, Pa.

The Colonials came in shooting 45 percent from the field and 39 percent from behind the arc. For this night, they were 24-of-65 (37 percent) and 6-of-20 first half (20 percent) and just 2-of-17 from three-point range (11.8 percent). The home side had one three each half and made just one in their last 13 tries.

“It wasn’t a pretty game. Pretty always comes off good offense,” Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni said. “Way too many turnovers (22). Taevion obviously was huge in the second half. Kind of took over. Kam (Kamdyn Curfman) had a couple of huge threes. Andy (Andrew Taylor) got a little tired, didn’t get the game he usually gets.

“They’re used to getting a lot of threes and making them. Eleven percent (three) 36 percent (field). Pretty impressed with our defense. Put the Pittsburgh sweep on them  (Herd won at Duquesne on Thursday). When the offense is off, defense is harder. We’re the type of team that can be good defensively. The staff is getting us prepared. Had some mental issues, mental mistakes, tired mistakes. Three games in six days. Tough for the young guys. Got to gut it out. Part of the system.”

The current win streak is the longest for the program since it started the 1999-2000 season on a 10-game run (Herd assistant coach Cornelius Jackson’s junior season). This is the first win in this streak where the margin wasn’t double figures.

“Nine in a row. Not bad,” D’Antoni said. “One of the better streaks Marshall has ever had.”

Robert Morris is 4-7.

The Herd’s athleticism more than impressed Robert Morris coach Andrew Toole.

“Really proud of the way we battled on the defensive side, but we just didn’t have enough offensively,” Toole said. “I probably made some calls that I didn’t love, and that’s on me, but Marshall is a really good team. They are long as can be, and they switch out, which makes it really hard to get clean looks either from three or at the rim. We had some opportunities at the rim, but Micah Handlogten was able to either block the shot or affect the shot. Some of the perimeter looks I thought we had were pretty clean, but all of a sudden you shoot a little quicker because you’re not completely comfortable because of the length and size coming at you.”

Kinsey, the top scorer in the Sun Belt Conference, led Marshall with 26 points (17 in the second half). He made 10-of-14 shots and 6-of-7 free throws. Taylor finished with 15 and Curfman 10. Micah Handlogten, the Herd’s 7-foot-1 man in the middle, grabbed 13 rebounds. He leads the Sun Belt in that category with 10.6 per contest.

Stephaun Walker topped the Northeast Conference member with 17 points and 11 rebounds for a double-double. Enoch Cheeks also had 17 and Michael Green III 11.

Taylor’s basket with 15:58 left in the first half gave the Herd the lead for good at 5-4. The margin would grow and hit 30-16 when Curfman made a three 57 seconds before halftime.

Jacob Conner’s three extended the Herd’s lead to 39-21 with 16:00 left to play. The Colonials got within eight at 63-55 on a Khaliel Spear basket with 1:12 to play. Curfman drained another three with 43 seconds to go to make it 66-55 and all but settle the issue.

“Lot of turnovers. Let the foot off the gas,” Kinsey said. “Been doing that the last couple of games but been pulling it out. We’ve got things we’ve got to clean up. A win’s a win and we’ll take it.”

Execution in the second half could be sharper.

“Got to make better decisions,” Kinsey said. “We don’t lock in. Second half we tend to get complacent instead of staying hungry. It’s hard to stop us when we’re moving the ball, getting up and down the floor. Coach Jackson preaches if we get the ball off the rim we can go. Want to take advantage of what we have. We’re very athletic all the way around. Took advantage in the first half, some in the second. We could’ve done better.”

Robert Morris did lead in bench points 16-3. Conner’s three was the only Herd points by a non-starter.

Marshall owns a 6-2 all-time series lead against Robert Morris. The Colonials are now 58-101 against teams with winning records under Toole.

Marshall returns to action Tuesday at UNCG. Tip and 7 p.m. The Herd returns home Saturday to face former Mid-American Conference rival Toledo. Tip at Cam Henderson Center is 3 p.m.

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