— By David Walsh
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall’s Cam Crawford enjoyed being back on the floor. The transfer from Indiana State didn’t enjoy the outcome.
Crawford sat out Saturday’s home loss to Miami Ohio due to shortcomings seen by coach Dan D’Antoni. He got things straightened out and played 28-plus minutes Wednesday against Duquesne at Cam Henderson Center. He tallied a career-high 20 points, but the Dukes came out on top of the Thundering Herd, 85-72.
“It didn’t mean that much because I didn’t like the result,” Crawford said. “You work harder, you get better results.”
Crawford made 9-of-18 shots, but just 1 of 6 from behind the arc.
“You always take a chance,” D’Antoni said about why he sat Crawford against Miami Ohio. “If he learns, he plays. Proud of the effort. He gave us everything he had. He’s going to be a dynamic scorer. I think he’ll respond. Told him talent wise he’s the best we have offensively. He came from the portal. You get freedom to play. You have to learn how to play with that freedom in our structure.”
Marshall held a 12-7 lead early in the first half only to see the Dukes go on a 14-0 run to open a 21-12 spread with 7:55 left in the half. The visitors from the A-10 never trailed from that point. Guard Jimmy Clark totaled 19 of his team-high 24 points (ties career-high) in the first half. He made 6-of-7 shots, including 4-of-5 from three-point range.
“We couldn’t quite put them away at the end, but we did a good job of hitting our free throws when we needed them,” Dukes coach Keith Dambrot said. “There were certainly some times tonight we missed some shots around the basket, but we’ll make those as the season goes on. Jimmy was really the key for us in the first half. He put us on his back during that run, and it’s good to see our inside guys helping out with production.”
Duquesne is 6-2. The Herd, with its fourth straight loss, is 2-6. Its next game is Saturday against Ohio University in Athens.
While disappointed with the loss, D’Antoni saw a much better effort than he witnessed Saturday and held a longer-than-usual meeting with the team after the game.
“That team I can coach,” D’Antoni said. “We had that come-to-Jesus meeting a little bit. Played some different players to spark interest. We played hard. We’ll develop through this. We can be a good ball club. Got to hang in there.”
The Dukes led 39-32 at the break. In the second half, they converted 25-of-34 free throws to prevent any comeback by the Herd.
“Any time you go down it hurts,” D’Antoni said of Duquesne’s first-half surge. “We made mistakes. We’re not shooting the ball, I don’t know why. We played hard enough to win. We have to learn how to win. Discipline is a mindset. We’re still a little wild. I liked the effort.”
Marshall finished 4-of-25 from three-point range, getting a pair of threes in each half.
“They run, we turn the ball over,” the Herd’s Kamdyn Curfman said. “We don’t put the ball in the basket. It’s simple. You don’t make shots, you don’t win. Our defense has to get better.”
Dae Dae Grant added 16 points for the Dukes, Andrei Savrasov 14 along with nine rebounds and David Dixon 11 points (9-of-14 at the foul line).
Curfman added 14 points, Obinna Anochili-Killen 13 and Kevon Voyles 12. Anochili-Killen added a team-high 12 rebounds for a double-double and teammate Nate Martin grabbed 11 boards.
At one point late in the second half, Duquense went to the line six times in seven possessions and converted 11-of-12 free throws in just over four minutes.
Grant etched his name in the Duquesne record book as he had converted 43 straight free throws until he missed his last attempt with 48 seconds left. Dave Ricketts (1954-57) converted 42 in a row in the 1956-57 season.
Duquesne now leads the all-time series 4-3. Dambrot is 9-3 overall thanks to his first win after three straight defeats. He went 7-0 against Marshall when he coached at Akron.
D’Antoni stayed upbeat through his full post-game interview.
“We have to learn to fit the pieces together,” he said. “We lost three good players. We’re asking some guys to pick up things in one year. I liked our disciple. We were smoother. We have to shoot better. We’ll work to find the right mix. We’re going to get there.”