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D’Antoni wants to restore the hunger

December 24, 2018

HUNTINGTON — Marshall University head coach Dan D’Antoni indicated changes might be in store for the slumping Thundering Herd men’s basketball team.

Texas A&M’s 92-68 victory Saturday against Marshall in College Station, Texas, was the Herd’s fifth defeat in the last eight games.

Marshall (7-5) missed its first six 3-point field goal attempts and it didn’t get any better. Marshall shot 35.2 percent overall (10-for-35 on 3-pointers) while Texas A&M (6-4) made 53.0 percent and the Aggies controlled the backboards by a whopping 54-30 margin. The Aggies tossed in 17 of 21 free throw attempts while the Herd missed seven of its 15.

Texas A&M’s bench players outscored Marshall, 44 to 14, led by 6-foot-2 sophomore guard T.J. Starks with 17, the same as 6-8 graduate forward Christian Mekowulu.

“We have to find our rhythm,” D’Antoni said in a radio interview. “Somewhere I have to find the right combination and preparation and hunger that we had for the game.”

Marshall returned from the Lonestar State and has a few days off for Christmas before practice resumes this week for a New Year’s Eve game, 1 p.m. Dec. 31, against No. 5-ranked University of Virginia (11-0) at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Virginia Cavaliers ran their win streak to 11 with a 72-40 win at home Saturday against William & Mary.

Virginia is one of the best defensive teams in the nation that allows only 50.2

points per game and limits teams to 37.9 percent shooting. The Cavaliers held six teams to less than 50 points.

The Herd completes its nonconference schedule against the Cavaliers and it’s the third stop on a five-game stretch away from home that ends with Conference USA games Jan. 3 and 5 at Old Dominion and Charlotte respectively.

With the Herd coming off a C-USA championship and NCAA Tournament second round season, D’Antoni said he’s not a happy camper.

“What happened tonight (Saturday) was unacceptable by me, I’m sure by Herd fans and probably our team,” he said. “But you know what, sometimes you’ve got to hit a wall to bounce back. Hopefully I can find a way and these kids can find a way to get that hunger back and get the type of team that we had last year at the end.”

Marshall’s only double-figure scorers Saturday were 6-4 senior guard Rondale Watson (19) and 6-4 senior guard C.J. Burks (18). Darius George, a 6-7 sophomore forward, came off the bench for nine points and 6-9 sophomore forward Jannson Williams had five points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots.

Jon Elmore, the Herd’s 6-3 senior point guard was 3-for-12 shooting (0-for-4 on 3-pointers) and scored six on a 20.8 average. Starting guard Jarrod West (5-11 sophomore) scored six and 6-5 freshman guard Taevion Kinsey pitched in five.

“They’re good guys, but the eagerness to win and that hunger to be better is not there and we’ve got to generate that or we’re a mediocre team,” D’Antoni said. “That’s hard for me to sit with and I’m going to fight all the way down to where we turn it. Can we turn it? Yea, we can turn it. I’ve got to make the right decisions on lineups and quit thinking this is the best one.

“We need to have Jon play better. I think C.J. had some spurts in him, did OK. Rondale is doing what Rondale does. Jannson has to be more consistent. He’s two of nine (field goals), one of seven from threes and that to me is all preparation. There’s things that happen and I’ve got to step in and find those kids that have the hunger to do this and let them play.”

D’Antoni said taking players out of the lineup and still keeping enough talent on the court to win games is a balancing act he doesn’t want to get into, but if he can’t get the hunger back in players’ eyes or they’re not letting him help do that he’ll go with less talent and win with guys that are giving Marshall their best shot.

The interview closed with D’Antoni saying Merry Christmas to everybody.

“It’s not the end of the world,” he said. “It’s a Merry Christmas and I hope you enjoy it. I promise you we’re going to work hard and see if we can’t turn it around.”

Next game

MARSHALL (7-5) AT NO. 5 VIRGINIA (11-0)

1 p.m. Dec. 31

John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, Va.

TV: AT&T SportsNet.

Radio: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM

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