George gets back in the groove as Herd puts losses behind them

January 31, 2019

HUNTINGTON - Darius George had 13 points in a Nov. 19 victory for the Marshall Thundering Herd against North Carolina A&T and didn’t reach double figures again for more than two months.

The Marshall men’s basketball team’s 6-foot-7 sophomore forward finally broke through with 11 points in a Saturday loss at Southern Miss.

“It had been a while,” he said Wednesday before practice. “I’ve just been in a slump. I just kept shooting and kept my confidence up.” Head coach Dan D’Antoni said he congratulated George for playing one of his best games in a long time and encouraged him to keep it up.

George has good shooting percentages - 46.0 overall, 35.9 on 3-pointers - but he was only 1 for 4 and 1 for 2 respectively in four games leading up to Southern Miss. He connected on three shots against the Golden Eagles - all 3-pointers - and also made both of his free throw attempts.

Throughout the slump he continued trying to create good things for the team.

“Being that spark off the bench, that’s what this team needs,” George said. “Being that hustle guy, getting to the glass and getting on the floor for the ball is most important to me.”

George’s 11 points Saturday tied senior guards Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks for most on the team in a forgettable Marshall performance against Southern Miss, a 101-51 defeat, when the Herd had season lows for points, 25.0 percent field goal shooting and 20.0 percent 3-point shooting.

D’Antoni said Marshall had the same shots as Southern Miss (64.6 percent) and didn’t make them.

“It’s gone,” George said about the blowout defeat. “It was a big loss. Now we’re focused for these next two games.”

Marshall (12-9) dropped all three of its road games last week and slumped to fifth in the Conference USA standings at 5-3 with home games this week against UTEP (7-12, 2-6) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and UTSA (12-9, 6-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday. The UTSA Roadrunners first play Thursday at Western Kentucky (11-10, 4-4).

George said he didn’t realize Marshall has the same C-USA record as it did last season before putting together a strong regular-season finish capped by winning the league tournament and advancing into the NCAA Tournament second round.

“Anything is possible,” the Staunton, Virginia, native said. “Hopefully by the end of this week we’ll be 7-3. Next week we’ll be 9-3. We just have to be focused and we’ll be fine.”

Scoring only 50 reduced Marshall’s season average to 79.2 per game. Elmore and Burks are scoring 19.0 and 17.9 a game to rank fourth and sixth in C-USA respectively. Jannson Williams, a 6-9 sophomore forward, scores nine a game and is the Herd’s leading rebounder with 4.5. Taevion Kinsey, a 6-5 freshman starter at forward, adds 8.6 points and 3.7 rebounds.

Elmore, a 6-3 point guard from Charleston, is third all-time in Marshall scoring with 2,288 points. He owns Herd career records for assists (703), 3-point field goals (295) and free throws (611).

Yielding 101 points raised Marshall’s scoring defense average to 82.0.

UTEP first-year head coach Rodney Terry had a 126-108 record for the previous seven seasons at Fresno State with a Western Athletic Conference championship in 2016 and three postseason bids in the last five seasons.

The Miners are on a two-game trip at Marshall and Western Kentucky on Saturday.

“At one point going into last week, Marshall was 5-0 (in C-USA) and those guys’ guard play is extremely good,” Terry said in a release. “They have four to five different guys on that team who won an NCAA Tournament game a year ago. You can’t put a price tag on that experience those guys got a year ago.”

Terry said the Miners have to defend well and take away air space from Herd shooters.

UTEP held an opponent to fewer than 60 points for the sixth time Saturday at home against Charlotte, a 57-53 victory. Last Thursday, when Old Dominion beat UTEP 50-48, the Miners limited the Monarchs to 30.8 percent shooting.

Sophomore guard Evan Gilyard sank a pair of game-clinching foul shots against Charlotte with four seconds remaining. Gilyard, who leads the team with 16.4 points a game, scored 13. Paul Thomas, a 6-8 senior forward averaging 7.0 points and 4.9 rebounds, scored 11 while collecting seven missed shots.

Efe Odigie of the Miners has eight double-double games. He is a 6-9, 280-pound freshman with averages of 13.1 points and 9.4 rebounds. Nigel Hawkins, a 6-4 freshman guard, scores 12.0 a game. UTEP has another freshman, 6-4 guard Jordan Lathon, contributing 9.5 points.

An average score for the Miners is 65.2 to 67.4.

One of UTEP’s conference victories was a disputed 65-64 win at home against Rice. Jordan Lathon scored at the buzzer, but Rice contested that the shot shouldn’t have counted because the clock didn’t start on time. C-USA did a review and determined the clock didn’t start on time, but the outcome wasn’t changed.

Next game: UTEP (7-12, 2-6) at Marshall (12-9, 5-3)

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Cam Henderson Center, Huntington

TV: beIN Sports

Radio: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM, WMUL 88.1-FM

Tickets: HerdZone.com