The Marshall University men’s basketball team closes its regular season schedule this weekend at home in Huntington against visiting Conference USA rival Charlotte, and the Thundering Herd has a chance to improve its standing for next week’s conference tournament with wins against the 49ers and some help.
With a sweep of Charlotte, the Herd (13-6, 7-5 C-USA) can climb as high as the East Division No. 2 seed for the C-USA tournament next week in Texas but only if Western Kentucky also sweeps Old Dominion.
The No. 2 seed comes with a bye, something the banged up Thundering Herd could probably make good use of.
“We’re definitely trying to get the No. 2 seed,” MU sophomore guard Andrew Taylor said earlier this week. “That’s definitely a big motivation factor, I feel like, for this week.”
Taylor, who led Marshall with 20 points in a 73-72 win against North Texas last Saturday, is one of several MU players nursing bumps and bruises as the regular season winds down.
Senior point guard Jarrod West twisted his ankle in the second half of last Friday’s loss to North Texas and did not play in Saturday’s win. Taylor was bothered in that game by a sore ankle of his own and senior forward Jannson Williams — Marshall’s newly crowned all-time leading shot blocker — was also hobbled with a foot injury.
“We have a lot of dinks and bruises,” Herd coach Dan D’Antoni said during his media on Tuesday of this week. “Andy played on a swollen ankle. It wasn’t as bad as Jarrod’s, but still it was puffed up a little bit. Jannson dropped a car on his foot and it has been bothering him for a week. I saw him today and it was still bothering him. I saw Jarrod today — he’s going to shoot today, and it’s still a bit swollen but we’re going to see what happens.
“Mikel Beyers got his nail pinned back on him — the ball pinned the nail back on his thumb. Then he fell on his back, but I think he’ll be OK. We’re a little bumped up, but I’m feeling good. My hip still hurts — I was going to do a lob play for them [in practice], but nah.”
Despite last weekend’s split with North Texas, the Thundering Herd has been one of C-USA’s hottest teams of late winning four of its last five games. Marshall leads the league in assist to turnover ration (1.34), assists per game (16.4), blocked shots per game (5.1) and points per game (81.1) — numbers good enough in each category to land the Herd among the top 26 teams in Division I.
MU junior guard Taevion Kinsey comes into the weekend as the second-leading scorer in C-USA at 19.8 points per game, but could be in for a duel as Charlotte (9-13, 5-9 C-USA) has a high-volume scorer of its own in Jahmir Young. The 49ers’ 6-foot-2 sophomore guard is fourth in the league at 18.4 points per game coming into this weekend’s pair of games at the Cam Henderson Center.
Despite high scoring from Young, Charlotte has not fared well in recent weeks. The 49ers come into the final two games of the regular season on a six-game losing streak, but stole a game from the Herd during their last visit to Huntington — a 77-75 Charlotte win last January at the Henderson Center.
“If you don’t carry that on your chest to this year, I don’t know what team you play for,” Kinsey said. “I still look at it as they beat us. They could lose six-straight games coming in, but they beat us last year. The last time we met, they beat us. I look at it in that perspective.”
Marshall and Charlotte are scheduled to tip-off at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday with both games being broadcast by Stadium.