HUNTINGTON — Marshall and Western Kentucky are known for exciting endings and Sunday was no different in Huntington.
On this day, the Hilltoppers were the only ones who left the Cam Henderson Center happy after earning a 69-67 win over Marshall.
Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni was not happy with another loss, but he added that he won’t let the weekend sweep to Western Kentucky deter the team from its goals.
“We’re not going to let one loss — I don’t care who it is — it’s not going to stop us from getting better and getting to where, at the end of the year, we’re at our best and we get our big chance of what our goal is,” D’Antoni said.
Marshall (7-4, 1-3 C-USA) had a shot to tie or win after a free throw miss by Andrew Taylor went out of bounds off Bassey, but Western Kentucky’s Taveion Hollingsworth forced a tough 3-pointer by Mikel Beyers on a desperation attempt for the win as the Hilltoppers earned the weekend sweep.
D’Antoni said it was a secondary look from what the Herd wanted in the situation.
Beyers’ 3-point attempt was the final miss in a game full of them for the Herd. Despite having several open looks, Marshall hit just eight of its 33 3-point attempts.
“You can’t (win) when you’re going 1-for-8, 1-for-6, 1-for-4, 1-6 from three,” D’Antoni said. “Again, that’s us. We’ve got to make those shots. I thought they were good shots. They were shots we can make, but they just didn’t go in tonight.”
Charles Bassey finished with 24 points and nine rebounds in the win for Western Kentucky (11-4, 4-2 C-USA) while adding a pair of key blocks in the second half that spurned momentum toward the Hilltoppers.
With the game on the line, it was Western Kentucky who got the key plays late to earn the win.
As was the case on Friday, Marshall had a pair of critical turnovers late that made a comeback attempt tough.
The biggest came with 2:10 left following a floater from Western Kentucky’s Jordan Rawls that produced a lead for the Hilltoppers. Marshall turned the ball over and never would draw back even in the loss.
“Obviously, today, we didn’t find a way,” said Marshall guard Andrew Taylor, who finished with a team-high 17 points. “We had a couple opportunities. I think our work should be done earlier. I think we had opportunities to not even be in that situation. We’ve got to capitalize and we’ve got to protect our home court.”
Hollingsworth was pivotal in a quick burst that helped the Hilltoppers turn the game in their favor. Hollingsworth scored six of his seven points during an 8-0 run that produced Western Kentucky’s first lead of the second half.
“We can’t have that happen,” D’Antoni said.
After Marshall’s Taevion Kinsey converted a 3-point play to put the Herd up 55-53 with 8:38 left, Western Kentucky responded with a 7-0 run that extended the Hilltoppers’ lead.
Kinsey finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds in the loss for Marshall.
On Friday night, the unsung hero for Western Kentucky was Josh Anderson, but on this day, it was Carson Williams, who scored 16 points to compliment Bassey’s 24.
Williams went 3 of 4 from 3-point range and the Hilltoppers finished 7 for 11 as a team — their best shooting effort of the season.
Western Kentucky’s 53 percent shooting clip in the second half countered a first half in which the Herd defense locked things down in the late stages to forge a 16-2 run that produced a 35-27 Marshall lead.
Kinsey struggled early from the floor, but Conference USA’s leading scorer hit a half-court buzzer beater to push the Herd’s lead to eight. It was only his second field goal of the first half.
Marshall saw its consistent scorers struggle throughout the contest. In addition to Kinsey’s early struggles, Jarrod West finished just 3 of 12 from the floor and Jannson Williams ended the game 2 of 13.
The Herd looks to get back into a rhythm this weekend, but must do so on the road with a trip to Miami to take on FIU. Friday’s game is at 7 p.m. while Saturday’s contest will be a 2 p.m. tipoff.