How did the wheels come off so quickly?
One minute, Marshall University was posting an impressive 93-79 victory over Louisiana in a sneak preview of Sun Belt Conference rivalries to come.
The next, MU was nailing a 3-pointer during the final seconds of a gutsy 72-71 win over Duquesne.
And to complete the trifecta, the Thundering Herd turned in an impressive 80-69 win over the homestanding Eastern Kentucky Colonels to improve its record to 7-3.
Then everything went kerflooey.
First, there was a physical 75-65 loss at Ohio University. Next, there was an embarrassing 75-60 defeat at the hands of Northern Iowa in the Henderson Center, as the Herd didn’t show up for the second half.
Then came the coup de grace.
Marshall barely showed up for a game at Toledo, falling behind 16-2 before settling for a humiliating 95-63 defeat.
That’s three consecutive double-figure losses.
But it’s not so much the points as it is the performances. There has been too much one-on-one play. Is it any wonder the assists totals have declined?
The 3-point shooting has been horrific. Hey, here’s an idea: If the players can’t make a 3, how about passing the ball and setting up a teammate for a 2-pointer?
The “athletic ball” that veteran head coach Danny D’Antoni loves to see virtually has disappeared. Ball movement has slowed down noticeably because too many players are looking for their own shots while dribbling, dribbling, dribbling.
The stats tell the tale.
In MU’s last three games, star guard Taevion Kinsey has made just 13 of 42 field goal attempts for a dismal .260 shooting percentage. A large part of Kinsey’s problem has been 3-point shooting. He has made only one of 14 shots from behind the arc for 7.1%.
Kinsey also is averaging 5.7 rebounds and 3.7 turnovers while averaging 14.7 points.
His backcourt mate, Andrew Taylor, also has struggled mightily. MU’s point guard is shooting just 30.9% from the floor (13 of 42), including just 7 for 25 from 3-point range (28%). Taylor also is averaging 5.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 5.0 turnovers and 11.0 points.
Freshman guard David Early was inserted into the starting lineup for his scoring potential, but that promise quickly faded. After hitting a trio of 3-pointers and scoring 14 points vs. Ohio, Early managed back-to-back performances of 5 points and 3 points.
The former Logan High School star is shooting 31.6% overall (6 of 19), including 31.3% on 5 of 16 3-point attempts. He is averaging 7.3 points.
Meanwhile, 6-foot-7 senior forward Darius George has been the odd man out. He has started all three games, averaging 22 minutes of playing time, but George has taken only 15 shots during the three games. Earlier in the season, George had scoring performances of 11, 6, 24, 18 and 15 points.
Marshall’s only consistent player has been 6-8 freshman Obinna Anochili-Killen. He is averaging 13.0 points, a team-high 6.8 rebounds and is among the national leaders in blocked shots with 60 (4.6 per game).
But even Killen’s yeoman efforts vs. Toledo couldn’t placate D’Antoni.
“I’m upset,” he said during a postgame news conference. “We’ll start from there. I’m upset. I’m upset with all of us. We’re not a very good ball club right now.”
D’Antoni is right.
Heard of the “Twelve Days of Christmas”? Well, MU’s players are off until Dec. 28.
They have six days of Christmas to figure it out.