Herd look to secure top seed in Sun Belt Tournament in regular season finale at Old Dominion

— By Bill Cornwell

Marshall can claim the top seed in the upcoming Sun Belt Conference Tournament, but standing in the way is Friday’s opponent, Old Dominion

The teams meet at 7 p.m. at Chartway Arena in Norfolk, Va. The game is being shown on ESPN+.

Marshall (24-6, 13-4) picked up a 92-83 road win at James Madison on Wednesday. ODU (18-11, 10-7) helped the Herd that night by knocking of previous league leader Southern Miss, 69-64.

Marshall and Southern Miss are now tied for first place in the Sun Belt. The Golden Eagles are in action at 8 p.m. Friday at Texas State. If the league leaders remain tied after Friday’s results, Marshall will claim the top seed in the conference tournament by virtue of a win over Southern Miss on January 12. 

Should either team lose Friday and the other win, the winning team is guaranteed the top seed, while the losing team would fall to No. 2.

Marshall is going for a season sweep of the Monarchs after it overcame a three-point halftime deficit to defeat ODU 73-65 in Huntington back on January 14. Marshall and Old Dominion traditionally play close games and Herd head coach Dan D’Antoni expects Friday’s contest to be no different.

“It’s going to be a battle because they’re playing better,” D’Antoni said. “We’ll give it our best effort because we can be the number one seed in the Sun Belt Tournament.”

In that game, the Herd’s Taevion Kinsey scored a game-high 24 points. Chaunce Jenkins finished with 23 points to top Monarch scorers.

Marshall is on a five-game win streak, while the Monarchs have won two games in a row. The teams have played 27 previous times, with Marshall holding a 14-13 series advantage.

Marshall has guaranteed itself a double bye in the Sun Belt Tournament, and Kinsey says the Herd will continue playing intense, but relaxed basketball against the Monarchs.

“No pressure at all,” Kinsey said. “We’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing. Our motto is 1-0 each game. As long as we don’t put pressure on ourselves and just play our game, we can get the job done.”

ODU will try to slow the fast-paced, high-scoring Marshall attack, which averages 82.7 points.

The Monarchs have three players averaging double-figure scoring — senior Tyreek Scott-Grayson (13.6 ppg), sophomore guard Chaunce Jenkins (13.5) and junior guard Mekhi Long (10.9). Long leads ODU in rebounding with an 8.6 average.

ODU is 5-2 in February and has won five of its last six games. A loss at James Madison on February 16 stopped a three-game win streak, but the Monarchs have since bounced back with consecutive victories.

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