Marshall manhandles Southern Mississippi, 89-67

— By David Walsh

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall’s basketball team proved ready for primetime on ESPN2 Thursday night.

Except for a minor bump in the road early in the second half, Marshall dominated Southern Miss and pulled away to the lopsided win, 89-67, in Sun Belt Conference play matching two former Conference USA rivals.

“Great game,” Herd coach Dan D’Antoni said. “A lot of energy in the crowd, in the players. Good chance to showcase Marshall, not just our basketball team, but our fan base and how we run operations. I hope it continues. Got a bunch of kids who represent this school well.”

Felipe Haase nailed a 3-pointer with 17:34 left to get the Golden Eagles within three at 41-38. Marshall took a timeout and when the players returned to the court, they scored on that possession and ruled the rest of the night.

“Stay focused,” Marshall’s Taevion Kinsey said of the theme in that timeout huddle. “Basketball’s a game of runs. They had their run, now it’s our time to have our run. We still had the lead. We didn’t panic. Made adjustments and went from there.”

Kinsey led the Herd with 23 points. Andrew Taylor added 19 and Micah Handlogten and Kamdyn Curfman 17 each. 

Handlogten, who is 7-foot-1, also grabbed 16 rebounds for a seventh straight double-double. He’s No. 1 in the nation in that category among freshmen. 

Kurfman, the transfer from VMI, delivered as advertised with five three-pointers and added nine assists.

Austin Crowley led Southern Miss (14-4, 3-2 Sun Belt) with 20 points. Haase added 14 and Mo Arnold 12. DeAndre Pinckney, who had a career-high 24 points in Saturday’s win at Louisiana-Monroe, finished with eight and made just 3-of-10 shots.

Out of the second half, the Golden Eagles weathered a Taylor-Kinsey flurry to get within three twice. The Herd responded and pushed the lead to 17 as the clock ticked past 10 minutes. With five minutes left, the cushion went to 22.

That meant the Herd lived up to one of D’Antoni’s goals.

“Be disruptors,” Kinsey said. “We all help each other.”

Then came meeting another goal.

“Every game we want athletic ball,” Kinsey said. “Tonight most of them (plays) went to him (Handlogten). KC (Curfman) was making shots. Attack and play above the rim. We can get by anyone when we want to.”

“It happens naturally,” said Taylor, who added nine rebounds and eight assists. “Be aggressive.”

Handlogten admitted he fed off the energy from the outset.

“The energy really helped us a lot,” he said. “The crowd kept us going.”

Southern Miss entered the game as the Sun Belt’s top defensive team giving up 62 points on average. Marshall (14-4, 3-2 Sun Belt) solved that riddle.

“Might not have too many teams spread the floor defensively the way they did,” D’Antoni said. “We have players you can’t do that against. One they’re too long. Micah as a release. He turns and sees things. We’ve got Taevion and Andy and the big man and them Kam can stretch the floor like he does. Get the angle driving at them. We finish pretty good.”

The coach then pointed out the impact Jacob Conner can have off the bench.

D’Antoni said that timeout he called when Southern Miss got within three paid off. Another time, maybe not, he said.

“My assistants reminded me we’ve got timeouts, make sure we use them,” D’Antoni said. “Like John Wooden, I’m slow with timeouts. My quarterback coaches say I’m too slow. Again players mostly want to look at a coach. I told my assistants you spend too much time scouting the other team. If you want to be a good coach, teach them how to play, get on the floor and go recruit. Teach the kids how to play the system.

“Sometimes coaching is way overblown on you affect winning. Coaches do affect losing. That’s the coaching part. The timeouts, the plays, they help. Good players make things work. It’s not what they do, it’s what we do. The kids appreciate the fan base, the school. It’s going to make us better. People will want to be here, be part of the scene.”

Marshall leads the all-time series 18-9. D’Antoni is 7-2 against the Golden Eagles, who are 2-10 now in games played in Huntington.

Marlana VanHoose, who is blind, 27 years old and a graduate of Johnson Central High School in Paintsville, Ky., got the crowd inside Cam Henderson Center stirred up with a rousing rendition of the National Anthem. The contemporary Christian singer from Columbus achieved fame by singing the anthem and other inspirational songs at major professional sporting events.

The Herd is back in action at home Saturday against Old Dominion. Tip is 7 p.m. and the game is a sellout. The Monarchs lost to Coastal Carolina at home Thursday, 67-66.

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