Marshall looks to turn win streak into the norm
It seems as though Thundering Herd basketball coach Dan D’Antoni is finally starting to figure out how his team is going to work, hopefully. Marshall started out the season 0-6, which was in huge contrast to the women’s team as they started 6-0. The first six games were absolutely horrendous for Herd fans to watch. There was hope for about 25 minutes against Tennessee, as the Herd led by 10+ until the second half. The Volunteers would storm back and essentially flip the scoreboard. The same struggles continued into the next few games. Marshall would start well, and in some cases have a decent lead into the second half, but something would always go downhill. Now the Thundering Herd are on a two-game win streak. Coach D’Antoni seems to have figured out who to play and when. The answer? The starting five, pretty much all 40 minutes.
During Marshall’s two game win streak, the starting five players (James Kelly, Ryan Taylor, Austin Loop, Stevie Browning, and C.J. Burks) have each averaged over 30 minutes of playing time. Aleksandar Dozic was the only player off the bench with more than four minutes. Are these six players the key to Marshall’s success the rest of the season? It sure seems like it. The more playing time they’ve had, the more points the Herd puts up. I was sitting in the student section of the Akron game on December 4th. The starting five all got a little over 30 minutes of playing time, but I recall D’Antoni taking them out with 9 minutes left to play in the game. Marshall was down by three at the time. By the time the leading scorers were subbed back in at 5:12, the Herd trailed 61-49, and the game was already over.
This is Dan D’Antoni’s second season as the head coach of the Thundering Herd. His current record with the team is 13-28. Many of the fans in Huntington, including myself, have been very frustrated and ready to give up on the experiment with the ol’ Marshall great. We are all ready to see this team reach new heights. The talent is certainly there, too. James Kelly is an absolute monster for the Herd, averaging 17.3 PPG and 9.5 RPG. Kelly is nearly grabbing a double-double in every game. Ryan Taylor carried the team all of last season, and this year has contributed with 14 PPG and 7 RPG. C.J. Burks has the potential to be one of the better guards in the conference, and Austin Loop is without a doubt the deadliest shooter from three-point range that the Herd has seen since Dago Pena back in 2011. Pena hit 54 three’s that year, the 15th most in Marshall history. Loop had 84 three’s in his sophomore season, 6th best in Marshall history.
The talent is in Huntington, D’Antoni just has to figure out how to use it. At this point, it’s all on coaching to determine the outcome of this season for Marshall. The Herd defeated EKU by 24 points on Saturday, something that Kentucky didn’t even do (21). Let’s hope that can spark something for this talented team.
Marshall welcomes North Carolina Central Monday at 7pm as they look to make it three in a row. The Herd travels to Charleston, WV to play #22 WVU on Thursday.
Casey covers Marshall Thundering Herd Basketball for MFST. You can follow him on twitter @wxmozz