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Marshall begins four-game home stand against UNC Greensboro

— By Bill Cornwell

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The song “{There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays” is fitting for Marshall’s men’s basketball team as the Thundering Herd will play four straight home games to end the 2023 calendar year.

That home stand starts at 7 p.m. Saturday when the UNC-Greensboro Spartans invade the Henderson Center.

The game is being shown on ESPN+ and pits two teams in two different directions. Marshall (3-7) dropped an 88-87 heartbreaker Wednesday night at Toledo as Obinna Anochili-Killen’s last second attempt at a game-winning shot came up short. The Spartans (8-1) are off to the best start in program history. They’re winners of seven straight, including an 82-73 win over Elon at Greensboro Coliseum in their most recent outing.

Mike Jones is in his third year as the Spartans’ head coach and has a 45-28 record there.

The Spartans’s most notable win this season was a 78-72 victory over then-14th ranked Arkansas. UNCG won the Baha Mar Tournament in Nassau, Bahamas during Thanksgiving week with victories over Kansas City, Delaware and Illinois Chicago. The Spartans’ lone loss came to Vanderbilt, 74-70.

UNCG’s top scorer is senior forward Mikeal Brown-Jones, who averages 19.4 points. Brown-Jones tied his season-high with 24 points in the Elon win. Other double-figure scorers for the Spartans are sophomore guard/forward Donovan Atwell (13.9 ppg) and graduate guard Keyshaun Langley (12.9 ppg). Brown-Jones is also UNCG’s top rebounder with a 7.4 average.

Marshall has lost three of its four December games, but D’Antoni says he sees reasons for MU fans to be optimistic.

“We’re getting better,” D’Antoni said after the Toledo loss. “We’re moving into where we’re learning how to win and compete. By the time we get into the conference, we’ll be a handful for a lot of people.”

Four Herd players are averaging in double figures, led by Anochili-Killen’s 16.1 points. Others averaging double-figure scoring include Kevon Voyles (14.8 ppg), Kamdyn Curfman (12.1 ppg) and Nate Martin (11.3 ppg). Martin is still the Herd’s top rebounder at 9.5 per game.

Marshall and UNCG have met two previous times and each team has picked up a win in the brief series.

Other upcoming MU home games are against Bluefield State on Monday, UNC-Wilmington on December 21 and the Sun Belt Conference opener against Louisiana on December 30.