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Andrew elevates ginal

Marshall’s Andrew Taylor (0) has elevated his game in recent weeks.

Call him “The Sheriff.”

Irrepressible Marshall University basketball coach Danny D’Antoni already had christened Andrew Taylor with that nickname before the freshman guard even set foot in the Cam Henderson Center last season.

“You know,” said D’Antoni with an eager grin, “Sheriff Andy Taylor from Mayberry?”

D’Antoni wasn’t whistling in the dark.

But he was whistling the ever-so-familiar theme song from the time-honored “Andy Griffith Show.” And who did Griffith play in the sitcom? Who else? Sheriff Andy Taylor.

Bingo.

It was a nickname made in Herd Heaven.

Yet it never really caught on during the 2019-20 season as Taylor struggled to find his niche in the Thundering Herd’s lineup.

But now?

Taylor no longer is in arrested development. Get it? Arrested? So, yes, it is time to start calling him Andrew “The Sheriff” Taylor.

Especially since the 6-foot-3 guard has been Marshall’s best player during the last five games. It’s true. Taylor has averaged 15.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists while shooting 59.6% from the field, 37.5% from 3-point range and 87.5% from the foul line during that span.

It all started in the Herd’s huge road win over Louisiana Tech. Taylor was only one assist shy of turning in a triple-double with 13 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.

That performance seemed to light his fuse.

“I feel like I’ve grown in a lot of areas this year,” said the redshirt sophomore. “I felt like that last year I was just kind of trying to get by, just trying to find my role and figure it out.

“But I worked my butt off in the offseason. Worked on my role as a defensive player, I guess you could say. Just being in the right spot at the right time. Last year I got chewed out a lot for ball-watching, Coach Dan would say. Which I did definitely do that a lot last year. That’s because I was a little out of shape.

“I guess just constantly moving and being in the right spot on defense, that’s something that has motivated me and made me open my eyes and see that there’s a lot more than just offense, especially as a college player. That’s super important.”

It shows in his recent performances. It also shows in D’Antoni’s increasing confidence in Taylor. After all, MU’s coach did call the first offensive play of the Herd’s last game at FIU for Taylor.

“I think that first play is indicative of where he’s come,” said D’Antoni. “Ten, 15, 20 games ago, I never would have thought about putting him in the first play, but now he just sort of rolled off that guy, took him down to the baseline and shot that little fallaway jumper.

“He has been very efficient the last three or four games. His numbers and percentages of scoring are way up. His confidence is growing. He’s got a great game to penetrate and get in. He’s got a good feel on how to get that shot off. He’s got a high motor. That one rebound where he ran right through three of ‘em, grabbed it and stuck it back.

“Take a look at his stats and you can tell he has high voltage. You don’t have to go much further than that.”

Indeed.

That’s why the time has drawn nigh. There’s a new sheriff in town and his name is Andrew Taylor.

He whistles while he works.