HUNTINGTON — Perhaps Marshall University’s men’s basketball players are too hard on themselves.
Sophomore forward Taevion Kinsey and redshirt freshman guard Andrew Taylor said youth is not an excuse for losing 67-64 to North Texas on Saturday in front of 5,489 spectators at the Cam Henderson Center. Both Thundering Herd coach Dan D’Antoni and Mean Green coach Grant McCasland, however, quickly pointed out Marshall’s youth and North Texas’ experience early in the postgame press conference.
“We made some mistakes and, not to beat a dead horse, but [we have] a lot of youngins,” D’Antoni said of a team with no seniors and that started two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman.
McCasland said he sees a bright future for the Herd, which returns to action at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Middle Tennessee.
“As young as they are, they’re really good defensively,” said McCasland, whose team started a red-shirt senior, three juniors and a sophomore.
Kinsey and Taylor were having none of such talk.
“It’s a we’re beating ourselves thing,” said Kinsey, who led Marshall with 19 points. “Youth can play into it, but coach isn’t going to keep giving us the youth thing. ‘You’re young.’ That was early in the season, so that’s got to go out the window.”
Taylor sounded as if he was ready to open that window.
“We get it” he said. “We’re young, but that can’t be our excuse. I’m a redshirt freshman. I’m not a [true] freshman. I’ve been here two years. We have a lot of redshirts who have been here for three years.
“We have two juniors. Taevion is a sophomore. We have experience. We can’t keep beating that excuse in the ground.”
Youth or no, the Herd (7-8 overall, 1-1 C-USA) made a plethora of mistakes that North Texas (7-8, 1-1) turned into points. A bobbled inbounds pass with 4.8 seconds left was the last of 17 turnovers that proved costly. The Mean Green scored 20 points off Marshall turnovers.
“We had too many,” D’Antoni said of the errors his team made. “We have to reverse that [17 turnovers, 10 assists]. Then again, they’re a good ball club with veteran guards and they had 18 turnovers. Defensively, they’re good and maybe defensively we’re good. At the same time, we have to reverse that.”
Roosevelt Smart, a 6-foot-3 senior from Chicago, came off the bench for North Texas and made four steals, scored six points and issued an assist. McCasland credited the veteran guard for bringing the Mean Green back after an early 10-2 run by Marshall in the first half.
“Roosevelt is a senior who was an all-league player and he’s been through some things and had some hard times,” McCasland said. “He was a big part of making plays and making steals. He was the difference in the game in that stretch early.”
With Smart playing well, North Texas turned a 13-4 deficit into a 14-13 lead 2:58 stretch that transformed a potential blowout loss into a narrow victory.