HUNTINGTON — Marshall University is ranked No. 320 in maturity.
That means 319 other NCAA Division I men’s basketball programs have more experience than the Thundering Herd.
Well, guess what?
It showed on Saturday.
Marshall held 10-2 and 13-4 leads but squandered an early opportunity to blow the game open by committing four careless turnovers in a span of 4:22, leading to a 12-0 run by North Texas.
The Herd never recovered, eventually losing 67-64 to North Texas Saturday afternoon before 5,489 disappointed fans in the Cam Henderson Center.
“We had some mistakes — again,” said Marshall coach Danny D’Antoni. “Not to beat a dead horse, but we’ve got lots of youngins.”
Indeed, MU does.
The Herd has zero seniors, four juniors, two sophomores and five freshmen. Why, Marshall won’t even have a “Senior Day” this season.
That youth showed in an early turnover spree that included several ill-conceived cross-court passes.
“Yeah, and a Goran goal-tend,” said D’Antoni, referring to 7-foot freshman Goran Miladinovic. “Not really smart passes. We’ve just got to get better at that. We’ll grow into it. Those kids will understand we have to take care of the ball a little better.”
The main culprits were all young. Redshirt freshman Andrew Taylor committed a team-high four turnovers, but he was playing in only his sixth collegiate game. Then, redshirt freshman Cam Brooks-Harris had three turnovers, but he was playing in just his 15th game.
That’s young, very young.
And sometimes it shows, like Saturday.
Yet, the players didn’t like or want that pardon. They view it as an excuse. And they’re not the least bit interested in alibis.
“I hear Taevion [Kinsey] talk about this in the locker room all the time,” said Taylor, who had nine points, three assists and three steals. “We get it that we are young. But that can’t be our excuse.
“We’re in there. I’m a redshirt freshman. I’m not a freshman, I’ve been here for two years. A lot of redshirts have been here two or three years. Two juniors — Jarrod [West] and Darius [George]. Taevion is a sophomore. He was on a really good team and played with Jon [Elmore] and C.J. [Burks], so we have experience. We can’t keep using that excuse.”
That’s a valid point.
But sometimes mistakes are the only way to gain experience.
“It’s kind of a ‘we’re beating ourselves’ thing,” said Kinsey, who finished with a game-high 19 points. “You can play into it, but it’s like Coach says all the time. He’s not going to keep giving us the youth thing like, ‘I know you guys are young.’
“That was early. That was when we were coming close with big teams. Now, it’s conference play, so that has to go out the window. We definitely made some key mistakes at the beginning — things we’ve got to work on, things we’ve got to fix.
“But I think it can be fixed. I’m glad we did this early. I’m not glad we lost. But I’m glad it happened to us, so that we could show a little bit of heart. We know some guys have some fight. I know my guys are going to lay it all out on the line.”
It was almost as if it were too easy early for this young Thundering Herd.
But MU will learn.
The Herd won’t stay at No. 320.