HUNTINGTON — Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni has spoken at length about how those within Conference USA haven’t seen his team’s true potential due to the disruptions in play associated with COVID-19.
Now, those within the league are starting to see Marshall’s team come together.
“I hate it that COVID came in here and you’re not getting a true picture of just how good they could’ve been if the scheduling and everything had been a little better,” D’Antoni said. “They’re making the best of a tough situation and I expect to go into the tournament and have a really good shot of trying to go into the NCAA [tournament].”
After starting 1-3 in league play, Marshall has now won six of its last seven league games, with offense taking center stage.
Of Marshall’s six league wins, five have featured the Thundering Herd eclipsing the 80-point mark.
And the other? Well, Marshall scored 79 in a win over FIU in that one.
Marshall saw a stoppage due to COVID-19 prior to its two losses to Western Kentucky, showing how big an impact two weeks of not playing or practicing can be on a team.
Over the last two weekends, though, Marshall has seen its offense really come together.
The Herd built a 21-point lead at Old Dominion before blowing that advantage in an 82-81 loss, but came back the next night to lead by as many as 34 in an 87-67 win.
That set the stage for Marshall’s first home series of the C-USA season, which produced two of the top performances of the year.
Marshall scored its most points in a regulation game since Jan. 2017 in Friday’s 107-79 win over Middle Tennessee, then followed that up with a 96-point outburst in Saturday afternoon’s win.
In the two games, Marshall combined for 45 assists while shooting 59 and 60% from the field, respectively.
Marshall junior guard Taevion Kinsey, who had 25 points and five rebounds in each win last weekend, credited point guard Jarrod West with directing traffic and elevating the offense to another level.
West’s decision making was at peak performance. He followed up a 15-point, eight-assist performance on Friday by scoring a career-high 29 points while dishing out six assists on Saturday.
“Watching him play [Saturday], he controlled the whole game,” Kinsey said. “He definitely controlled our offense. Him working that ball screen, being very confident — which I love him being confident off the ball screen — taking his shots, making great passes, it’s just beautiful to watch.”
West added he felt this was the most comfortable he’d felt in the offense in quite some time.
“Offensive efficiency, for sure, that’s definitely the best game I’ve had this season,” West said.
While West and Kinsey are at the helm, guard Andrew Taylor continues to quietly shine as well.
Taylor was in double-figure scoring in each win while dishing out 17 assists with just four turnovers in the two-game set.
“Our three guards are as good as there are in this country,” D’Antoni said. “They’re on display every day, and for me, Herd fans should relish this time.”
D’Antoni added that the most fun aspects of the team are its selflessness and love for the game.
“It’s good when you have a talented team that will do the dirty work, too,” D’Antoni said. “They’ll do both. They’re not prima donnas. I think Jarrod said, ‘We can grind it or play it the other way.’ It’s fun to be around them.”
D’Antoni said, with the team starting to come together, the possibility is there for a difficult season to end with a surge.
“This is always fun and entertaining and you just wish the best and hope the best for them,” D’Antoni said. “Hopefully they’ll get a title to their name and put up a banner up on that wall.”