HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The Marshall University men’s basketball came into Friday’s home game against North Texas riding a three-game win streak, but the Conference USA West Division leading Mean Green pushed the Thundering Herd around for a 77-65 win in the first of two games between the teams this weekend at the Cam Henderson Center.
North Texas (13-6, 9-2 C-USA) never trailed Friday as the Mean Green bullied Marshall (12-6, 6-4 C-USA) with a 40-20 advantage on points in the paint while also grabbing 38 rebounds compared to just 24 for the Herd.
“They had more energy than we had,” Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni said. “They were getting the loose balls. They were quicker. They were aggressive [and] more physical than we were. When teams are physical and athletic, you can’t back off of that. I just feel like we didn’t do a good job of preparing and getting into the game. Our locker room I didn’t feel was right, and then when we came out they just kind of — to be honest with you — [North Texas had] more energy, more spunk. More toughness and more physicality than we had. We had our chances.”
The Mean Green jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead and lead by as many as 12 points in the first 10 minutes of the game, however Marshall had a run in them. The Thundering Herd, thanks in large part to the early play of senior forward Mikel Beyers, battled back to tie the game at 23-23 but struggled again down the stretch in the first half with UNT taking a 34-27 lead into the break.
Marshall got the score within one point thanks to a 6-0 run to open the second half, but again could not sustain that push as North Texas put some distance between itself and the Herd and kept MU at arms length for most of the second half.
“[North Texas] is a good basketball team,” D’Antoni said. “We had our chances. They handle the ball pretty well. When you get into a tight game you have to handle the ball well and not have as many turnovers as we did.”
Marshall committed 13 turnovers Friday, with four each from Beyers and senior guard Jarrod West with another three coming from junior guard Taevion Kinsey. North Texas, meanwhile, turned the ball over 18 times against Marshall but managed to outscore MU 16-10 in points off turnovers.
Sophomore guard Andrew Taylor led Marshall with 15 points in the Friday’s loss while Beyers recorded the first double-double of his career with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Kinsey, tied for the C-USA scoring lead prior to Friday, had a relatively quiet game with 12 points.
West, MU’s starting point guard and a former Bill Evans Award winner as the top boys high school basketball player in West Virginia, finished with six points after leaving the game with an apparent ankle injury in the second half.
“You can’t have Taevion and [West] as quiet as they were and expect to win,” D’Antoni said. “They’ve got to be a lot bigger part of what we do.”
Asked about West’s status for Saturday’s rematch (2 p.m. on Stadium), the Marshall coach said they would know more in the morning.
“It is an ankle, so we’ll have to wait and see,” D’Antoni said. “Those things, you usually have to wait and see in the morning. I don’t think it’s broke or anything but we won’t know until the next morning how bad [it is] or how much it tightens up.”
For North Texas, four players finished in double-digits in scoring led by James Reese (21 points) and followed by Thomas Bell (15), Zachary Simmons (14) and Javion Hamlet (10). Reese and Bell each had seven rebounds to lead the Mean Green in Friday’s win while Bell also accounted for four steals.