-By Bill Cornwell
It will be a homecoming of sorts on Saturday night when Marshall’s basketball begins a 2-game road trip with a trip to Eastern Kentucky.
The game with the Colonels tips off at 7 pm at McBrayer Arena and can be seen on ESPN+.
The Marshall road trip continues next Wednesday night with a 7 pm game at Ohio University.
The homecoming aspect of the contest is due to the presence of two former Marshall basketball players on the EKU roster (6-9 redshirt senior Jannson Williams and 6-10 redshirt junior Iran Bennett) as well as the fact that the Colonels are coached by Marshall alumnus A.W. Hamilton.
Hamilton is in his 4th season at Eastern Kentucky and he has a 56-47 record.
Marshall (6-3) is coming off of a 100-57 Wednesday night win over NAIA member Bluefield University, while EKU (5-5) lost on Tuesday night at Southern California by an 80-68 score. The Colonels have lost four straight games.
The Colonels have played other high-profile opponents in the non-conference portion of the schedule, falling at WVU 80-77 and at Western Kentucky by an 85-80 score.
Williams and Bennett decided to leave Marshall and enter the transfer portal after last season.
Williams started in 21 of the Herd’s 22 games in the 2020-21 season, averaging 9.4 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. He also became the Herd’s all-time shot blocker with 196. He scored 943 points at Marshall. The Newnan, Ga. native is making an impact at EKU, leading them in points (12.8), rebounds (6.6), and blocks (2.3) per game. He’s scored in double figures in five straight games, including 22 points scored in the WVU contest.
Bennett had limited playing time in three seasons at Marshall due to injury issues. He played in only one game last season, picking up 5 rebounds in 9 minutes against Wright State. His most productive season with the Thundering Herd was in the 2019-20 season, when he started 30 of 32 games, scoring in double figures in 14 games and bringing down at least 5 rebounds in 19 games. Bennett has not appeared in any games so far this season for the Colonels.
As for Marshall, head coach Dan D’Antoni is still looking for improved shooting from his ball club. The Herd shot just under 48% for the game, but Marshall is still struggling from behind the 3-point line, hitting only 28.1% on 9 of 32 shooting.
“We’ve got to get better and make some shots,” D’Antoni said. “I don’t know when it will happen, but I believe it will.
“The kids come into the gym every night and make a lot of shots but it doesn’t translate to the game. Maybe we’re shooting too much.”
As for going against two former Marshall players in Williams and Bennett, D’Antoni says he’s confident that the Herd will focus on winning the game.
“We root for them every game except one,” D’Antoni said. “You’re competing against your brothers. We have to shut down their 3s and turn the ball over on their press.”
Senior guard Taevion Kinsey still leads Marshall in scoring at 21.2 points per game. Redshirt freshman forward Obinna Anochili-Killen leads the Herd in rebounding at 7.2 per game. He’s also leading the nation with 44 blocks, two more than Western Kentucky’s 7-5 junior Jamarion Sharp. Junior guard Andrew Taylor leads Marshall in assists (53) and steals (25).