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Herd used ‘athletic ball’ against EKU

December 24, 2017 GMT

HUNTINGTON - Marshall’s Thundering Herd broke out its athletic ball just in time for the Conference USA men’s basketball season.

An athletic ball moves in rapid fashion from player to player seeking out the best shot. Marshall definitely had it in its final non-conference game Friday night, a 91-71 victory against Eastern Kentucky University in Cam Henderson Center. The Herd shot 61.8 percent from the field, hit 11 of 25 from 3-point distance and had 23 assists on 34 field goals.

Marshall (9-4) took a short Christmas break following its final non-league game and resumes practice Tuesday for its C-USA home opener at 7 p.m. Thursday against Southern Miss.

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“We talked about (how) we were holding the ball, the ball was sticking too much,” Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni said. “Everybody thinks they’re handling the ball to set a play. ... We weren’t throwing the early pass. The early pass is what gets the athletic ball going because you threw the early pass and it creates the next angle, the next angle, the next angle, boom. You pop a play on them.

“We talked about that the last four days in practice. Make the easy pass. Quit trying to make a great play, just make easy plays and the great play will follow.”

Marshall’s Ajdin Penava said D’Antoni urged him to watch some video from last season of how former Herd forward Ryan Taylor moved the basketball. Coincidentally, Taylor was at the Friday game on a break from playing professionally in Iceland, where he’s averaging 23.5 points and 10.5 rebounds for IR Reykjavik.

Marshall leaders in the NCAA statistics held their place with good performances against the Colonels (6-6).

Junior point guard Jon Elmore went 4-for-5 shooting foul shots and remains the NCAA leader in free throws made and attempted (107-for-130). Penava, a 6-9 junior forward, swatted away nine shots and is the national leader in total blocks (64) and blocks per game (4.92).

Elmore scored 26, collected seven rebounds and had five assists. He is ranked sixth nationally in scoring (23.7) and seventh in assists per game (7.4). Junior guard C.J. Burks fired in 25 points. Penava’s statistics line was 13 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, nine blocks and two steals.

Junior guard Rondale Watson became eligible earlier in the week and scored 12 in his first home game. The Lewisburg, W.Va., native is a transfer from Wake Forest University.

EKU was led by 6-9 junior Nick Mayo’s 19 points. Mayo lit up Marshall with 30 last season when the Colonels won at home against the Herd. He worked harder to score this time. Marshall began the game with 6-9 senior Milan Mijovic guarding Mayo, but also used Penava, 6-9 red-shirt freshman Jannson Williams and even Burks, at 6-4, as defenders.

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“We tried to not play one-on-one with him so much,” Penava said.

Williams and Mijovic combined for 19 points and 11 rebounds. Williams went for seven and seven in a season-high 20 minutes. Mijovic also played for 20 minutes in his third game since recovering from a fractured wrist. He had eight points and five rebounds.

“Jannson went extended minutes, did a great job out there,” D’Antoni said. “He’s a freshman and just growing.

“He’ll grow as the season goes along.”

Next game: Southern Miss (7-5) at Marshall (9-4)

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Cam Henderson Center

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

Tickets: HerdZone.com