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Marshall moves past UNC Greensboro, 72-65

— By David Walsh

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall did something different Saturday night in its game against UNC Greensboro.

Take a lead in the second half, build on it and then close strong to win. No last-minute drama this time.

Nate Martin made a jumper in the paint with 6:24 left to play to put the Thundering Herd ahead to stay, 59-58. From that point, Kamdyn Curfman and Kevon Voyles provided the late-game points to assure Marshall the victory, 72-65, at Cam Henderson Center and end the win streak for the Spartans (8-2) at seven.

In its previous two road games, the Herd overcame a late-game deficit to defeat Ohio and followed a similar script at Toledo only to see a potential game-winning shot go off the mark and the Rockets prevail, 88-87.

“The one good thing about the schedule is it makes us a better ball club faster,” Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni said. “You have to grow into learning how to win. We build a little bit of steam. Each game we get better.”

Curfman, with four threes and a 2-of-2 effort at the foul line, led Marshall with 18 points. Voyles added 16, Martin 12 along with 11 rebounds for his sixth double-double, and Obinna Anochili-Killen finished with 11.

“Don’t know what to say,” Curfman said. “On offense, it’s a rhythm thing. I was more comfortable. We all were shooting better. We outhustled them at the end.”

Martin said UNCG played physical and he didn’t mind.

“I enjoy it,” the transfer from Texas State said. “They came at us. We did a great job, responded well. We were able to close it out.”

Keyshaun Langley and twin brother Kobe led the Spartans on offense. Keyshaun had 26 to match his season high and Kobe 20 for a new season high. They shot a combined 17-of-39 from the floor, including 10-of-25 from three.

Jalen Breath nailed a three with 16 seconds left to get UNCG within three at 68-65. Voyles took over from there going 4-of-4 from the foul line to ice the victory to please the 3,933 fans watching the action.

Marshall (4-7) returns to action Monday at home against Bluefield. Tip at the Henderson Center is 7 p.m.

UNCG didn’t have leading scorer and rebounder Mikeal Brown-Jones. The 6-foot-8 senior, who averages 19 points and seven rebounds, was in street clothes and walked with a limp. Still, D’Antoni said his team can learn from going 40 minutes against the Spartans.

“They teach us how hard we have to play every time,” D’Antoni said. “We have a long way to go. No big guy (UNCG), but they played as hard as they could. I love this team. Every day they come hard. That’s what I enjoy.”

Marshall, in year two in the Sun Belt Conference, now leads this series 2-1.

UNCG, which plays in the Southern Conference, came in off to the best start in program history. The Spartans won last year at home and the Herd won at home in 2006. This season they won at then-No. 14 Arkansas, 78-72, on November 17. Their one loss came at Vanderbilt.

D’Antoni saluted the job done by the Herd’s defense in the final six-plus minutes and the play of 6-foot-8 Martin on the inside. Six of his rebounds came on offense. He averages 9.5 rebounds per game.

“Our defense has gotten a lot better,” D’Antoni said. “Nate’s a warrior. He’s a beast on the boards. He’s a joy.”

In the first half, UNCG twice led by 12 points only to see the Herd close on a 12-3 run to trail 34-32 at the half.

Marshall went on a 9-2 run following the first tied score of the game to lead 48-41. The Spartans then went on a 14-4 surge to get back on top at 55-52. That set the stage for the finish.