HUNTINGTON — If there’s one thing known about Marshall basketball head coach Dan D’Antoni, it is that he — like his offense — is never sitting still.
While Marshall’s game has been better in recent weeks, D’Antoni wants to find the combinations that produce the greatest results in all phases to balance the Herd out.
Throughout much of the season, Marshall’s defense has carried it and been a staple.
However, a recent shift in the lineup had a pair of effects: the offensive game picked up, but the defensive side let down a bit.
Was that more a product of the competition or the Herd’s change to Marko Sarenac — a smaller player — at the four position? That is what D’Antoni wants to find out.
“As a whole, are we better than what we were at the beginning of the season? That’s what we need to know,” D’Antoni said.
On one hand, Marshall sits at 10-13 overall and 4-6 in league play, which is not up to D’Antoni’s standards.
On the other hand, nine of the 13 losses are by 10 points or less, meaning the Herd is right there with its competition, which has featured an elevated schedule in 2019-20.
Especially with a young team, D’Antoni’s biggest question is whether to rock the boat and shake up the lineups to see what may work or to see the current system through and see if some of the experience gained through close losses pays off later on.
“It’s a matter of ‘Are we just chasing our tail’ because of our youth,” D’Antoni said. “Whether that’s the case, I don’t know.”
Again, like D’Antoni’s offenses, he isn’t one to sit still and wait to find out.
When Marshall hosts Southern Miss at 7 p.m. Thursday, there is a good chance the rotations will look a bit different.
Whether that means the starting lineup or not remains unclear — D’Antoni admitted he’s throwing around ideas with his staff — but substitution patterns and lineup pairings could shuffle with the Herd looking to find the best flow for the stretch run.
And that best flow involves everything — offense, defense and rebounding.
D’Antoni’s hope is to find meshes of all three components without falling victim to a disadvantage in any one area.
One thing that allows for that type of tinkering is that Southern Miss is not a heavy transition team like what has been seen recently with Western Kentucky, Florida Atlantic and Florida International.
Southern Miss (7-16, 3-7 C-USA) is a bit more deliberate with its attack and is not generally thought of as a high-scoring offense.
“They shoot 30 percent on 3s and 44 percent from all over,” D’Antoni said. “Their best [3-point] shooters, they’ve got one that shoots 36 percent, but the rest of them are down below that.”
Of the top four 3-point shooters on the team, the only one above 30 percent on the year is LaDavius Draine, who has hit 51 of the team’s 117 3-pointers on the season.
Draine averages 12 points per game and is joined in double-figures by Gabe Watson, who leads the team at 13.1 points per game, and Tyler Stevenson, who adds 12.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
Still, the Golden Eagles average just 67 points each outing and don’t look to push the pace, which allows D’Antoni a bit more freedom in trying to find players who mesh well on each end of the court.
Regardless of lineup, D’Antoni said that this weekend’s home stand, which also includes Saturday’s game against C-USA leader Louisiana Tech, is a huge chance for his team to catch momentum prior to the league’s Bonus Play in two weeks.
“If we can get these two — which isn’t going to be easy — we can get back on track,” D’Antoni said. “We were right around this spot last year and then we got hot. There’s no reason we can’t do it again. We aren’t that far off.”