HUNTINGTON — Marshall’s men’s basketball team took a step in the right direction on Thursday night.
That step was not big enough to get the Thundering Herd over its hump, though.
North Texas executed well down the stretch with the game on the line, earning a 69-65 win over Marshall that extended the Herd’s losing streak to six games in front of 3,818 fans on Thursday night at Cam Henderson Center.
“We’ve got to get better, that’s all,” Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni said. “We looked a little bit more like ourselves but still got a long way to go.”
North Texas’ Tylor Perry hit a floater with 39 seconds left, then put the game away with a pair of free throws after Thomas Bell blocked an attempt by Marshall’s Taevion Kinsey to tie the game with 20 seconds left as the Mean Green escaped Huntington with a victory.
It spoiled what had been a needed breakout night for Kinsey, who scored 29 points in the loss for Marshall (7-9, 0-3 C-USA).
“We’re definitely almost there, but almost isn’t enough,” Kinsey said. “We definitely have to get over that hump. This game — the way it ended — is definitely not sitting with me the right way, but at the end of the day we’ve got to get over it. We only have one day to prepare for Rice coming in.”
Kinsey and North Texas center Abou Ousmane took over the game during a final 12 minutes that saw eight lead changes as the teams jockeyed back and forth.
Ousmane scored four straight to give North Texas a 65-60 lead with 1:39 left, but Kinsey knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner and drained a 7-foot floater to tie it before Perry’s floater gave the Mean Green the lead for good.
The Mean Green’s 6-foot-10 center was a thorn in Marshall’s side throughout the game, finishing with 22 points and 11 rebounds, which helped lead North Texas to a 41-26 advantage on the glass.
“That’s what killed us tonight, the rebounds,” said Marshall’s Darius George, who finished with 18 points off the bench.
Ousmane was in the midst of a heated exchange between the teams with just over 12 minutes left after he was called for a flagrant foul against Marshall’s David Early as Early collected a loose ball.
The two players jawed at each other, with both teams shoving and jockeying back and forth, which seemed to ignite the crowd and Marshall’s players.
It came during a 10-1 run in which Andrew Taylor gave the Herd its first lead at 45-43 after Early knocked down the two flagrant foul free throws to tie it.
Kinsey said the moment showed the Herd’s resolve to not back down, no matter what the obstacles, which helped the team find its rhythm a bit.
“We showed during that little scuffle that we banded together and we’re not backing down from anybody,” Kinsey said.
While Marshall found its rhythm eventually, it came after the team endured another slow start that saw the Herd score just one field goal in the game’s opening seven minutes.
Poor starts have been a trend throughout the six-game losing streak, and D’Antoni said until Marshall erases that trend, it won’t erase its losing skid.
“Taevion’s always said, ‘If you start right, you end right,’” D’Antoni said.
Kinsey and George were the lone Marshall players in double-figures as Andrew Taylor finished with nine points and Obinna Anochili-Killen ended with just two points as the Mean Green did a good job of limiting his looks.
Perry finished with 12 for North Texas (10-4, 3-1 C-USA), which finished with five players in double figures. J.J. Murray added 11 points while Mardrez McBride and Bell added 10. Bell also had 12 rebounds, five assists and three blocks in the most complete performance of the night.
Marshall returns to action at 7 p.m. on Saturday as Rice visits Cam Henderson Center. The Owls ended the Herd’s season in the Conference USA Tournament last year.