No. 9 Xavier a great opportunity for Herd
HUNTINGTON — Head coach Dan D’Antoni wants the Marshall Thundering Herd men’s basketball program to face the best possible competition.
Xavier University, ranked No. 9 in the nation at 10-1, offers just that Tuesday night and D’Antoni said it’s a great opportunity for Marshall (8-3). The teams meet at 6:30 p.m. at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati where the Musketeers have defeated 38 consecutive non-conference opponents. The game is an FS1 telecast.
Marshall will have 6-foot-4 junior guard Rondale Watson eligible to play for the first time as a transfer from Wake Forest University. In two seasons with the Demon Deacons he averaged 12.0 minutes, 2.6 points and 1.3 rebounds in 35 game appearances.
He was an all-state player for Greenbrier East High School in Lewisburg, W.Va.
D’Antoni said his favorite game as a Marshall player was Feb. 1, 1968, against top-ranked Houston at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Houston led by Elvin Hayes won, 102-93.
“If we win, we celebrate. If we lose, we got better,” he said.
Marshall’s last triumph against a Top 25 team was against No. 21 West Virginia University (Jan. 19, 2011) in the Charleston Civic Center. 75-71. The Herd has an all-time record of 7-61 against Top 25 teams.
Xavier, a Big East Conference member, made it to the NCAA Sweet 16 six times in the last 10 seasons and participated in 11 of the last 12 NCAA tournaments.
The Musketeers had a small scare Saturday at home when East Tennessee State from the Southern Conference built a 22-point lead at 14:25 of the second half. Xavier began chipping away at the deficit and caught the Buccaneers in the final minute.
MARSHALL (8-3) AT NO. 9 XAVIER (10-1)
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Cintas Center (10,224)
TV: FS1 (Comcast Huntington Ch. 50)
RADIO: WDGG 93.7- FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM
Trevon Bluiett took the final shot, made the 15-footer with six seconds left and Xavier won, 68-66.
“East Tennessee could have won the ball game,” D’Antoni said. “That’s probably not good for us because they’re probably going heck, we’ve got to get our stuff together. And, guess who shows up? Us. That’s OK.”
Blulett, a 6-foot-6 senior guard, scored 18 and leads the Musketeers with a 21.4 average. He is a shooter making 45.0 percent on 3-pointers (3.3 made per game) and 87.9 percent of his free throw attempts (51 of 58).
Xavier’s attack behind Blulett is balanced with seven players scoring between 6.9 and 11.9 points per game. J.P. Macura is a 6-5 senior guard averaging 11.9 points while 6-8 junior forward Kaiser Gates and 6-9 sophomore forward Tyrique Jones add 9.7 and 9.5 respectively. Jones also gets 6.0 rebounds a game and Gates collects 5.3.
Marshall played an exciting game of its own Saturday, beating Ohio River rival Ohio University, 99-96 in overtime, at home in Cam Henderson Center with the Herd threesome of 6-9 junior forward Ajdin Penava, 6-4 junior guard C.J. Burks and 6-3 junior point guard Jon Elmore leading the way.
Penava received Conference USA Player of the Week honors after scoring 33 points, snagging 15 rebounds and rejecting nine shots. He assumed the NCAA lead for total blocked shots (53) and blocks per game (4.82). Burks set a career scoring high with 31. Elmore had 20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in the fifth triple-double game ever by a Marshall player.
“Just a great team win,” Elmore said after the game. “We rallied together. It’s good to get to 8-3. We’re on a little win streak and hopefully we can carry that into the next one at Xavier.”
Elmore joined Penava as an NCAA individual leader. He is first in free throws made and attempted with 100 and 121 respectively.
Saturday’s game marked the return to action of Marshall’s 6-9, 255-pound Milan Mijovic who missed seven games after fracturing his wrist. Mijovic started the first four games this season. He played 10 minutes against Ohio, contributing four points, one rebound and one assist.
GAME NOTES: Marshall’s four-game win streak pushed D’Antoni’s career record to 56-55 (four seasons). Xavier head coach Chris Mack is 196-92 in nine seasons seven NCAA tournaments. ... Xavier has sold out all eight home games this season. ... Marshall leads the all-time series 13-11, but Xavier won the last two. Xavier won the last meeting at home, 69-46, in 2004-05. ... FS1 broadcast talent is Rich Waltz and Len Elmore.