EL PASO, Texas — Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni waited all season to see Mikel Beyers and Jannson Williams find their mark from 3-point range.
As it turned out, the Herd juniors did so together on Saturday in El Paso, Texas.
Beyers scored 18 points and Williams added 14 as they combined for eight 3-pointers in a 71-61 win over UTEP at the Haskins Center.
“That’s what they can provide us all year long from game to game to game,” D’Antoni said. “If they do that, then we’ve got a great chance going down into the tournament. We’ve just got to keep going.”
With the win, Marshall moves to 13-14 overall and 7-7 in Conference USA while solidifying the No. 7 spot heading into C-USA’s Bonus Play.
One game after Marshall struggled to get production from anyone outside of guards Taevion Kinsey and Jarrod West, the Herd got the offense spread to its other parts on Saturday against UTEP (13-14, 4-10).
After playing near 40 minutes on Thursday, Kinsey and West showed some fatigue in the ability to finish on the offensive end, but both excelled in decision-making to facilitate teammates.
The two combined for 12 of Marshall’s 17 assists on the evening with West tallying eight assists with no turnovers.
Kinsey’s buckets were few, but he may have had the game’s biggest basket — an offensive rebound and putback for a 3-point play that restored a double-digit lead with 3:46 left.
Marshall has struggled from the outside this season, but used the 3-point shot to its advantage in this win, connecting for 12 3-pointers as a team, which helped stem any UTEP runs.
That shooting ability loomed large for the Herd, who had to go to a smaller lineup and overcome foul trouble throughout the game.
Beyers, who had 16 of his 18 points in the first half, picked up three fouls in the first three minutes of the second half and had to go to the bench, but Williams followed suit from the outside with eight points over the next six minutes that kept the Miners at arm’s length.
“Me and Mike came out shooting 3s, and once we start shooting 3s, that’s how dangerous that we can be,” Williams said.
Marshall also got big post contributions from 7-foot freshman Goran Miladinovic, who returned from a foot injury to play in his first game in three weeks. Miladinovic added eight points and five rebounds to help offset foul-trouble issues for Iran Bennett, who played just seven minutes.
Beyers led Marshall to a 36-26 advantage at the break after hitting four 3-pointers in the early going off pick-and-pop situations.
The Miners elected to shade Kinsey and West with additional defenders, leaving Beyers and Williams open for looks outside.
Beyers had an immediate impact, getting the Herd out of a hole in which the team had just one field goal in the first seven minutes while falling behind 11-3.
A transition dunk on a feed from West jump-started a 21-5 run in which Marshall’s defense forced UTEP into several turnovers and allowed just two field goals over an eight-minute stretch to seize control of the game.
The Miners had 12 turnovers in the first half.
UTEP’s Bryson Williams finished with 23 points to lead the Miners while Souley Boum added 12 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.
As the current No. 7 team in Conference USA, Marshall is locked into the second pod of the league’s Bonus Play and can finish no higher than No. 6 heading into the Conference USA tournament in March.
It is the same position that Marshall entered Bonus Play last season before rattling off four straight wins in Conference USA’s unique format.
“It seems familiar,” Williams said. “We’ve been in that position before, so we know how to hold ourselves.”
UAB appears to be the No. 6 seed in the pod, which would likely see the Herd travel to Birmingham, Alabama, for a game during Bonus Play, as well as No. 10 seed UTSA.
Marshall would likely host both Old Dominion and Florida Atlantic — the Nos. 8 and 9 seeds.
UTSA 72, MARSHALL 63: Marshall University went into Thursday’s contest at UTSA hoping to limit the Roadrunners’ Conference USA-leading offense.
The good news for the Thundering Herd was that they were able to do so.
The bad news was that so much energy was spent on the defensive end, that the Herd had no offensive punch in the second half.
Marshall hit just two of its first 22 shots in the second half as UTSA overcame an early deficit and earned a defensive 72-63 win at the Convocation Center on Thursday night.
While Marshall’s offense led it to a surge that produced a halftime lead, the same execution did not come out to start the second half as the Herd went without a field goal for more than seven minutes.
UTSA took full advantage, scoring the half’s first 11 points to take a seven-point lead after trailing 38-34 at halftime.
Marshall (12-13, 6-7 C-USA) finished the second half just 7 of 32 from the floor en route to the loss.
Despite the atrocious offense in the second half, Marshall had chances to stay in the game with its defense, but could not secure rebounds when needed.
UTSA (11-14, 6-7 C-USA) finished the game with a 67-44 rebounding advantage. The 67 rebounds was tied for the second-most in an NCAA game this season.
Marshall’s defense limited the duo of Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace, who torched the Herd during a 114-104 overtime win in Huntington last season.
Jackson led UTSA (12-14, 6-7) with 25 points and 10 rebounds, but shot just 10 of 28 from the floor. Wallace finished with 13 points, but many came at the line late as he was just 3-of-19 as Kinsey did a solid job of locking him down.
Kinsey, who finished with 27 points to lead the Herd, fueled Marshall’s first-half surge on both ends, scoring 17 points and limiting Wallace to just 2 of 9 shooting in the first half as the Herd took a lead into the locker room.
That lead came courtesy of a late 9-0 run in which the Herd clamped down defensively and kept the Roadrunners without a field goal in seven attempts over the last 2:50 of the half.
Still, the defensive presence took its toll as Kinsey and Marshall point guard Jarrod West drew the defensive assignments of Wallace and Jackson, respectively, which took away from their offensive games late.
West finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists with zero turnovers, but was unable to be a scoring force, finishing 5 of 18.
Marshall needed another weapon to step up and was unable to find that with starters Andrew Taylor and Iran Bennett each going scoreless.
The Herd built an early lead with Mikel Beyers and Jannson Williams contributing to Kinsey’s burst to help Marshall in the early going, but those options fizzled down the stretch. Beyers finished with 10 points while Williams added seven.
Regardless of Saturday’s result against UTEP, the Herd will be in Pod 2 as Conference USA Bonus Play begins, based on UTEP’s loss to Western Kentucky on Thursday.