Marshall men’s basketball win was a team effort
HUNTINGTON — Jon Elmore was back on his game and Ajdin Penava was still on his.
C.J. Burks and Jarrod West continued to play well.
Dani Koljanin, Darius George and Jannson Williams displayed flashes of their potential.
“A team effort tonight,” Elmore said after tossing in 24 points Wednesday night for the Marshall Thundering Herd in a 92-84 men’s basketball victory against N.C. Central in Cam Henderson Center where attendance on Thanksgiving Eve was 4,572. “Everybody came in and gave us good minutes.”
Elmore went into the game only 6-for-28 shooting 3-pointers (21.4 percent) in Marshall’s first four games and broke out by making four of seven. The junior point guard from Charleston, a Preseason All-Conference USA selection, had 24 points and nine assists. He leads C-USA in scoring average (24.6 per game) and assists (7.0).
An afternoon conversation with former teammate Stevie Browning now playing professionally in Turkey seemed to be inspiring.
“I was talking to Stevie Browning today in Turkey and he was kind of messing with me a little bit,” Elmore said. “He said you might as well try to kick it (in the basket). I got here about 3 o’clock today and didn’t leave. Shot jumpers. Watched film on my jumper.”
Penava dominated the early part of the game before personal fouls slowed him down. The 6-foot-9 junior from Bosnia scored 16 of the Herd’s first 24 points. His 15th and 16th points were on a move to the rim for a dunk that put Marshall ahead, 24-17, at 10:26 of the first half and he went to the bench with two fouls shortly after that.
He said everyone was giving him the ball and he capitalized.
A Penava move from outside to the basket for another dunk gave the Herd a 92-79 edge with 52 seconds remaining and was the finishing touch on a 23-point game.
“Boy, that last dunk. ... That’s a big man coming from beyond the 3-point line on dribbles,” Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni said. “He breaks presses. He’s just long. He’s just gifted. I think you’re seeing about 50 percent of the tank full. When it gets full he’s going to be a handful for some people.”
Burks, a 6-4 junior guard, popped in 19 points and the 5-11 West, a freshman, added 11.
Marshall (3-2) played without 6-9, 255-pound senior starting forward Milan Mijovic who fractured his left wrist in a Sunday loss at the University of Illinois. Mijovic isn’t a big statistics guy (2.3 points and 4.0 rebounds a game) but the Serbian is valuable because he knows how D’Antoni’s system works.
Mijovic had successful surgery and might be able to come back a little earlier than first thought, D’Antoni said.
Dani Koljanin, a 6-8 juco transfer, started Wednesday in place of Mijovic. In 32 minutes of action the Croatian contributed four points, five rebounds and two assists. Six-foot-seven freshman Darius George had five points, eight rebounds, one assist and two steals in 21 minutes. Jannson Williams, a 6-8 redshirt freshman, chipped in six points and had one rebound.
“I think Koljanin and Jannson and Darius are going to grow by leaps and bounds,” D’Antoni said.
The N.C. Central Eagles (2-4) were led by 6-9 junior center Raasean Davis with 21 points on 10-for-14 shooting mostly right around the rim. Junior guard Larry McKnight followed with 19 and was a perfect 7-for-7 from the field. Freshman guard Reggie Gardner scored 17 and 6-8 junior forward Zacarry Douglass had 15.
Gardner came out firing early and made three quick 3-point shots to give the Eagles a 9-5 lead just two minutes into the game, but it was their only lead. He tried 16 3-pointers in the game and only made five.
Marshall returned home after losing back-to-back road games at Morehead State (86-83) and Illinois (91-74). Next is a 4 p.m. Sunday contest at home against Concord University, an NCAA Division II opponents from Athens, W.Va.
“It was nice to get back here in the Cam with our home crowd,” Elmore said. “I thought we played really well as a team. Shot the ball well, finished well, defended pretty well and got the W.”