HUNTINGTON — On Friday night, the Mean Green were meaner than Marshall.
North Texas came out with energy from the start and frustrated Marshall offensively to earn a 77-65 win over the Herd in the first of two games at Cam Henderson Center this weekend.
Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni said he could tell from before the game that his team’s mindset wasn’t right going into the game.
“There was an air in there that didn’t have the same purpose that we usually have in there,” Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni said. “I don’t know why it was, what it is, but you’re not going to beat a team like this with that type of air.”
Marshall never led in the loss as North Texas used a stout defensive effort to frustrate the Herd throughout.
The Herd had 12 turnovers in the first half and then struggled to get anything going with the game on the line.
Marshall (12-6, 5-5 C-USA) cut the lead to one possession with 8:18 left, but North Texas’ wing James Reese scored eight straight during a 12-2 run that pushed the lead to 13 and ended any chance of a comeback for the Herd.
“They kind of pulled away after his threes,” Marshall guard Taevion Kinsey said. “The crowd was yelling, we had some momentum going our way and the next thing you know, he hits a shot which quiets the crowd.”
Coming into the contest, Marshall guards Taevion Kinsey and Jarrod West spoke of last year’s loss and matching the energy of North Texas, but it never came to fruition as the Herd was not able to get over the top.
Kinsey and West each struggled on the evening. Kinsey, the leading scorer in Conference USA, had just 12 points and West, who left for a bit in the second half after an ankle injury, had just six points. The two combined for seven of Marshall’s 13 turnovers as well.
“You can’t have Taevion and (West) as quiet as they were and expect to win,” D’Antoni said. “They’ve got to be a lot bigger part of what we do in the execution and being able to free up things.”
Andrew Taylor led Marshall with 15 points while Mikel Beyers added 14 points and 10 rebounds off the bench in the loss.
Marshall came into the game with the league’s top assist-to-turnover ratio (1.41), but the Herd had just four assists, compared to 12 turnovers as the Mean Green took a 34-27 lead to the locker room.
Production off turnovers loomed large in the contest, especially in the first half.
Marshall forced North Texas into 11 turnovers of their own, but had just two points to show for it. North Texas turned the 12 Herd miscues into 14 points.
North Texas also dominated the game on the interior, owning a rebounding advantage while scoring 40 points in the paint, compared to the Herd’s 20.
It was Reese who also jump-started the early run for North Texas (13-6, 9-2 C-USA). Reese scored 11 points in the game’s first eight minutes as the Mean Green jumped to a quick double-digit lead.
Marshall’s early deficit was the third straight home game that the Herd has fallen behind early.
“Definitely, starting from behind on this team and trying to fight our way back is not what we want to be in, a position we want to be in,” Kinsey said. “We know it’s going to be a dogfight and tomorrow, we just have to come out and change the way we start.”
West and Jannson Williams each left at different times of the game with injuries. D’Antoni said it is unknown whether either will be available for Saturday’s contest on the quick turnaround.
The two teams meet again at 2 p.m. on Saturday in the finale of the series.