HUNTINGTON — Heading into Tuesday’s exhibition, many wondered what Marshall University’s men’s basketball team would look like after the loss of several key pieces from last year’s team.
As it turned out, the more things have changed, the more things stayed the same for the Thundering Herd as it opened the 2019-20 season.
Marshall got up and down the floor with consistency on Tuesday, turning Glenville State College misses into transition buckets en route to a 100-66 win over the Pioneers in front of 5,297 fans at Cam Henderson Center.
“Once we got it out and spread them a little bit, things opened up a lot better,” Thundering Herd head coach Dan D’Antoni said. “The first half, I substituted platoon-wise and that’s difficult for a team to get a rhythm.”
Cam Brooks-Harris led Marshall off the bench with 19 points while Taevion Kinsey added 14 points and six assists with a pair of highlight dunks. Point guard Jarrod West had 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Kinsey said the second half was much more indicative of the team than the first.
“I thought it was beautiful toward the end of the game,” Kinsey said. “At the beginning, I know we had some nerves in us and I thought, after our halftime talk, we just needed to calm down a little bit.”
West’s defensive presence disrupted the Pioneers early, and the entire team matched that intensity in the second half, forcing Glenville State into a 30-percent shooting performance, which included just a 6 of 43 effort from 3-point range.
Marshall added a 3-2 zone look to its defensive repertoire, which was a wrinkle D’Antoni has been working on in preseason with his bigger lineup.
“Defensively, we can be very good,” D’Antoni said. “I thought the zone looked decent when we played it. We’ve got to rebound better.”
As misses added up in the second half, Marshall’s transition game took over with the Herd running out for several odd-man situations, which led to many dunks.
A Steven Verplancken 3-pointer opened the second half and cut Marshall’s lead to 45-38, but the Herd went on a 14-2 run with several fast-break baskets to take control.
While the game’s pace did not lend itself to a ton of offensive work in the half-court, one benefit that Marshall was able to see was the versatility of forward Mikel Beyers as a presence in several aspects.
Beyers’ ability to handle the ball helped West against the full-court pressure, which led to several baskets. Beyers finished with eight points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.
“He can do that,” D’Antoni said. “He’s more of a [former Marshall forward Ajdin] Penava type player than we’ve had.”
Even in the lopsided victory, there were certainly plenty of coachable moments for the Herd staff to assess. Marshall struggled at times to get the ball inbounds against pressure and the Herd didn’t shoot particularly well from distance, hitting just 6 of 26 3-point attempts.
D’Antoni credited the latter to early jitters for his team and said the shots taken were ones they’ve knocked down in practice.
“We’re still not shooting the ball like we can from 3s,” D’Antoni said. “We’ve got to be a better shooting team, and I think we are. We’ve just got to do a better job of getting those shots and then getting them down when we shoot them.”
The game featured the return of two former Marshall players — Glenville State’s Phil Bledsoe and Noah Frampton — to Cam Henderson Center.
Bledsoe went to work early, scoring 18 of his 22 points in the first half while also finishing with 12 rebounds. Verplancken, who played at nearby Teays Valley Christian Prep, was also in double-figures with 15 points.
Marshall finished with 30 assists, but also 26 turnovers.
Freshman Goran Miladinovic was also impressive in limited action in his debut. He had seven points, two rebounds and one block in 11 minutes.
All 16 players to see the floor for the Herd scored. Marshall hit the century mark with 30 seconds left on a layup by Chapmanville’s Devin Collins.
Marshall returns to practice on Thursday and has one last exhibition matchup against NAIA opponent University of Rio Grande at 1 p.m. on Saturday.