HUNTINGTON — For Marshall men’s basketball coach Dan D’Antoni and his team, the hope is that Saturday comes down to a simple equation.
Five is greater than two.
It sounds easy enough, but that was not the case the last time Marshall traveled to the Convocation Center in San Antonio to take on UTSA. The Roadrunners walked away with a 72-63 win as Marshall’s offense was unable to get on track.
“I watched the film and we played terrible down there,” D’Antoni said. “We didn’t have energy and we didn’t make plays that we make every day in practice.
That loss essentially turned into a 2-on-2 contest with Marshall’s Taevion Kinsey and Jarrod West battling UTSA’s Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace, the top two scorers in Conference USA.
This time around Marshall (15-15, 9-8 C-USA) hopes to turn things in its favor by using its depth as an added weapon against the Roadrunners. Tipoff time Saturday in San Antonio is set for 4 p.m.
“At this point in the season, it’s got to be the whole team,” Marshall guard Andrew Taylor said. “We’ve got a lot of depth on our squad.”
Taylor will be a focal point for the Thundering Herd in its efforts to get on track against UTSA. The freshman from Corbin, Kentucky, is coming off a solid performance in which he scored 16 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had four assists with zero turnovers in the Herd’s win over Florida Atlantic.
With West and Kinsey matching up with Jackson and Wallace on both ends of the floor again on Saturday, Taylor’s ability to perform at a high level can help the Herd offense find its rhythm while adding another ball-handler who can take the pressure off the other two guards in what will be an up-and-down 40-minute affair.
That rhythm took a hit in the Feb. 14 loss to UTSA. Marshall hit just one of its first 21 shots from the floor in the second half as fatigue started to settle in following an early frenetic pace.
In addition to Taylor, Marshall will look to again establish center Iran Bennett down low. Bennett’s post presence is a matchup problem, and his ability to draw double-teams can produce open looks for the rest of the Herd offense.
Neither Bennett nor Taylor scored in the first meeting between the teams, which must change Saturday for the Herd to get a win that would send them into the Conference USA Tournament as winners of six of their last eight games to end the regular season.
UTSA (13-17, 7-10 C-USA) does its best to get Jackson and Wallace their touches while allowing everyone else to take on different roles around them. Jackson is one of the nation’s most prolific scorers, averaging 26.9 points to lead Conference USA while Wallace is sitting right behind him in the No. 2 spot at 18.6 points per game.
However, both players are volume shooters, meaning they will get shots up regardless.
In the last meeting, Kinsey and West forced each into poor shooting nights, and they will look to do the same again on Saturday. This time, however, West wants to leave San Antonio with a win.
“We did what we were supposed to do to Jackson and Wallace,” West said. “I felt like we did a pretty good job defensively on them. They took a lot of tough shots and missed a lot of shots, honestly.”
As a team, Marshall kept UTSA to 3-of-26 shooting from 3-point distance, which is a recipe for a win against the Roadrunners. The lack of offense outside of West and Kinsey — plus a minus-23 disadvantage in the rebounding department — countered UTSA’s poor shooting and allowed the Roadrunners to escape.
This time, D’Antoni wants the Herd to make life easy on itself by using simple math. No matter how D’Antoni draws it up, five beats two.
If his team can get all five players on-court working together to get the best shot for the offense, the Herd’s head coach feels good about his chances.