Marshall basketball wants more energy and focus

December 5, 2018 GMT

HUNTINGTON -- Jon Elmore said he can almost tell when leaving the locker room whether the Marshall Thundering Herd is ready to play.

It wasn’t a problem last season when Marshall was stringing together victories on the way to a 25-11 record, the Conference USA men’s basketball championship and the NCAA Tournament second round.

This is a different season, however.

“When you look back to last year when we were running off games, just the energy level and attention to detail and just the chemistry were at an all-time high,” Elmore said Monday before practice in Cam Henderson Center. “Look at it now early in the year we’re kind of going up and down, very inconsistent with energy and focus.

“If we want to be good we have to piece is all together.”

Marshall is 5-2 after dropping two of its last three games and getting touched for more than 100 points in defeats at the University of Maryland (104-67) and Ohio University (101-84).

Elmore leads Marshall into a 7 p.m. Wednesday game against Duquesne University (4-2) in the Palumbo Center at Pittsburgh with averages of 21.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. Elmore is the No. 3 scorer in school and Conference USA history with 2,038 points. The 6-foot-3 senior point guard from Charleston already owns the Herd record for made free throws (549) and is the program’s third-leading assist producer with 635.

Marshall’s 87.0 points per game also includes 6-4 senior guard C.J. Burks with an 18.9 average, 6-9 sophomore forward Jannson Williams (10.1) and 6-7 sophomore forward Darius George (8.4). Williams also collects 4.6 rebounds and George gets 4.0.

Senior guard Rondale Watson, who could get his first starting assignment of the season at Duquesne, is a 6-4 senior contributing 5.4 points and 5.0 rebounds coming off the bench.

Head coach Dan D’Antoni said on his Monday night radio show he’ll probably juggle the starting unit with Watson moving in for 6-9 redshirt freshman Iran Bennett to create more rhythm and speed up the game. Bennett has contributed 4.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists in seven starts.

“Rondale is a senior,” D’Antoni said. “He’s been here, he’s tested. He’ll allow us a chance to play more wide open.”

D’Antoni also said he’s taking a chance with giving up some size.

Watson said Saturday loss at Ohio was an example of how the team sometimes comes out lackadaisical.

“Being on the road might have an effect,” The Lewisburg, West Virginia, native said. “You don’t have the crowd’s energy and you have to bring your own energy. We have a lot of young guys on the team that probably don’t understand that, but that’s just part of basketball. It’s part of the learning.

“I think me, Jon and C.J. can all agree that we have to be better. We embrace that. We take our responsibility and we’ll be better next time.”

Duquesne’s second year head coach, Keith Dambrot, has a 7-0 career record against Marshall with all seven victories during 13 seasons at the University of Akron.

Eric Williams Jr., a 6-6 sophomore guard for the Dukes, was a preseason All-Atlantic 10 Conference second team selection. He leads the squad with 14.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Michael Hughes is a 6-8, 250-pound sophomore who transferred from Akron and sat out last season. Hughes adds 12.7 points and 6.3 rebounds.

Point guard Sincere Carry (6-1 freshman) produces 8.8 points and 5.8 assists. Marcus Weathers (6-5 sophomore) is good for 8.4 points and 6.0 rebounds while 5-8 sophomore Tavian Dunn-Martin from Huntington is another Akron transfer scoring seven points a game. Dunn-Martin’s father, Frank Martin, was a Marshall point guard from 1991 to 1994.

D’Antoni compared Duquesne to a top five team in C-USA. The Dukes have beaten William & Mary (70-64), Illinois Chicago (89-88 OT), Radford (69-64) and UMass Lowell (83-71). Losses were against Notre Dame (67-56) and Pittsburgh (74-53),