— By Bill Cornwell
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall’s five-game winning streak is on the line Thursday night at the Henderson Center as the Thundering Herd plays host to Louisiana Monroe.
The first-time opponents tips off at 7 pm and can be seen on ESPN+.
Marshall (17-4, 6-2) is in a three-way tie for first place in the Sun Belt Conference with Louisiana and Southern Miss. The Warhawks (9-12, 5-3) are in second place, one game behind the trio.
Marshall swept a two-game road trip last weekend, winning at Texas State and then Arkansas State in overtime.
Despite the Herd’s win streak, Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni says his team has plenty of areas for improvement, including avoiding foul trouble and regaining its rebounding dominance after it lost the battle of the bards in both of last week’s road wins.
“We’ve got to do a better job of rebounding against physical teams,” D’Antoni said. “Micah (Handlogten) has a reputation now and people are getting physical with him but he’ll learn to deal with it and we’ll be a better team.”
Marshall’s scoring is still dominated by three players — Taevion Kinsey, who leads the Sun Belt with an average of 21.2 points; Andrew Taylor at 19.3, good for third in the conference; and Kamdyn Curfman, one of the top 3-point shooters in the country averaging 12.3 points.
Curfman is the Sun Belt leader in 3-point field goal percentage (42.4 percent) and 3-pointers per game (3.4), followed closed by Taylor, who’s hitting 2.6 triples on average.
Despite some struggles last weekend, Handlogten, a freshman, remains the Herd’s rebounding leader at 10.9 per game.
Kinsey’s next appearance will set a new record for most games played in program history at 144, surpassing Darius George.
Louisiana-Monroe is in the midst of a four-game road trip and lost last Saturday at Troy, 77-53.
The Warhawks are coached by Keith Richard, who is in his 13th year at ULM. He has a 150-243 at the school.
Richard is no stranger to Huntington as he was an assistant coach at Marshall from 1986-1989, helping the Thundering Herd win two Southern Conference crowns and a Southern Conference tournament title. Marshall participated in the 1987 NCAA Tournament and the 1988 NIT while Richard was on staff.
Junior guard Tyreke Locure leads the Warhawks in scoring at 13.7 points per game. Senior guard Jamari Blackmon also averages double figures at 11.9. Sophomore forward Thomas Howell (9.7 ppg) and junior forward Nika Metskhvarishvili (9.8 ppg) are also key scorers.
Howell is ULM’s leading rebounder with an average of 7.1, and he’s followed closely by graduate forward Victor Bafutto (6.8 rpg). Bafutto also has 49 blocks on the season.
The weekend home stand continues for Marshall at 7 p.m. Saturday when the Herd hosts another first-time opponent in Georgia State.