EL PASO, Texas — Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni waited all season to see Mikel Beyers and Jannson Williams find their mark from 3-point range.
As it turned out, the Thundering Herd juniors did so together on Saturday in El Paso, Texas.
Beyers scored 18 points and Williams added 14 as they combined for eight 3-pointers in Marshall’s 71-61 win over UTEP at the Haskins Center
“That’s what they can provide us all year long from game to game to game,” D’Antoni said. “If they do that, then we’ve got a great chance going down into the tournament. We’ve just got to keep going.”
With the win, Marshall moves to 13-14 overall and 7-7 in Conference USA, while solidifying the No. 7 spot heading into C-USA’s Bonus Play.
One game after Marshall struggled to get production from anyone outside of guards Taevion Kinsey and Jarrod West, the Herd showed a more versatile offensive effort against UTEP (13-14, 4-10).
After playing near 40 minutes on Thursday against UTSA, Kinsey and West showed some fatigue in the ability to finish on the offensive end against UTEP, but both excelled in decision-making to facilitate teammates.
The two combined for 12 of Marshall’s 17 assists on the evening with West tallying eight assists with no turnovers.
Kinsey scored just 11 points, but he may have had the game’s biggest basket — an offensive rebound and putback for a 3-point play that restored a double-digit lead with 3:46 left.
Marshall has struggled from outside this season, but used the 3-point shot to its advantage in this win, connecting for 12 3-pointers as a team, which helped stem any UTEP runs.
That shooting ability loomed large for the a Herd team that had to go to a smaller lineup and overcome foul trouble throughout the game.
Beyers, who had 16 of his 18 points in the first half, picked up three fouls in the first three minutes of the second half and had to go to the bench. Williams followed that up from the outside with eight points over the next six minutes that kept the Miners at arm’s length.
“Me and Mike [Beyers] came out shooting 3’s and once we start shooting 3’s, that’s how dangerous that we can be,” Williams said.
Marshall also got big post contributions from 7-foot freshman Goran Miladinovic, who returned from a foot injury to play in his first game in three weeks. Miladinovic added eight points and five rebounds to help offset foul trouble issues for Iran Bennett, who played just seven minutes.
Beyers led Marshall to a 36-26 advantage at the break after hitting four 3-pointers in the early going off pick-and-pop situations.
The Miners elected to shade Kinsey and West with additional defenders, leaving Beyers and Williams open for looks outside.
Beyers had an immediate impact as he helped the Herd out of an 11-3 hole, in which it had just one field goal in the first seven minutes while falling behind
A transition dunk on a feed from West jump-started a 21-5 run in which Marshall’s defense forced UTEP into several turnovers and allowed just two field goals over an eight-minute stretch to seize control of the game.
The Miners had 12 first-half turnovers.
UTEP’s Bryson Williams finished with 23 points to lead the Miners while Souley Boum added 12 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.
As the current No. 7 team in Conference USA, Marshall is locked into the second pod of the league’s Bonus Play and can finish no higher than No. 6 heading into the Conference USA tournament in March.
It is the same position that Marshall entered Bonus Play last season before rattling off four straight wins in Conference USA’s unique format.
“It seems familiar,” Williams said. “We’ve been in that position before, so we know how to hold ourselves.”
UAB appears to be the No. 6 seed in the pod. Meaning the Blazers would likely see the Herd travel to Birmingham for a game during Bonus Play.
Marshall would likely host both Old Dominion and Florida Atlantic — the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds.
According to a release from Conference USA earlier this week, all dates and times for Bonus Play will be formally announced on Sunday.