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Marshall takes care of Bluefield, 103-70

— By David Walsh

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Kevon Voyles hit Marshall’s first shot of the night and the rout was on.

Voyles nailed a jumper 16 seconds into the contest and the Thundering Herd lead against Bluefield continued to grow as the game progressed and Marshall finally prevailed, 103-70, at Cam Henderson Center in front of 3,653 fans.

It’s the highest total for the Herd this season. The previous best was 89 in the season opener against Queens — an 89-73 win.

Marshall is 5-7 with its second straight win.

Bluefield, an NAIA school, is a member of the Appalachian Athletic Conference. This game counted as an exhibition for the Rams (4-9).

“I want to thank Bluefield for coming,” Herd coach Dan D’Antoni said. “They played as hard as they can. It helped us. A lot of players play and we get to see them. They’re on the floor longer and there’s evaluations. We need to work on things. We’ve still got a lot to learn.”

Marshall had seven  players in double figures. Cam Crawford came off the bench to lead with 17. Obinna Anachili-Killen added 16 (17 minutes played), Kevon Voyles had 14, Kamdyn Curfman and Wyatt Fricks 11 each and Jacob Conner 10. Nate Martin added 12 points and 13 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season.

Danny Alford and Christian Bullock each scored 13 to lead the Rams. Tybenn Sturm (from Huntington and transfer from Alaska-Fairanks) netted 11 and Elijay White 10.

Conner nailed a two just before the halftime buzzer sounded to give Marshall a 46-23 lead at the break.

“It’s pretty nice not to have to come from behind,” Connor said. “Good to get a game like that now. We’ve still got to learn some things.”

Crawford agreed with his teammate.

“Got a lot of guys in. That’s helpful,” he said. “We had the game to do it. We got the result we wanted.”

Bluefield struggled shooting. Midway through the half, the Rams were just 2 of 18 from the floor. They finished 9 of 38, including 3 of 9 from three. The visitors shot much better in the second half (19 of 35).

“They played really hard,” Conner said. “I know they knew they were the underdog. We had to match their intensity. We have to do that every game. Make the right mental choices.”

Marshall shot 50 percent for the half (18 of 36) and hit five threes.

The game provided the Herd a break from a series of nail-biters of late. Marshall rallied from seven down late at Ohio University to win, 74-69. The Herd followed a similar script the next game at Toledo, trailing by 10 late only to charge back and have a potential game-winning shot not fall. Toledo would win, 88-87.

Marshall came back from a double-digit deficit in its last game against UNC Greensboro and won, 72-65.

The scenario should be much different on the Herd’s next game Thursday against UNC Wilmington at Henderson Center. The Seawolves are in the Coastal Athletic Association and are 8-2. They are 1-1 against Sun Belt foes. They beat Georgia Southern and lost to Appalachian State (86-56 at home). They won at No. 12 Kentucky on December 2, 80-73. The Wildcats had 69 first-half points in their 112-82 win over Marshall on November 24.

“It’ll be very similar to the UNC Greensboro game,” D’Antoni said. “UNCG won at Arkansas. They (UNCW) won at UK. They can win their conference. We’ve played a lot of possible conference winners. Going hard every game takes its toll. Sometimes you need it a little bit easier.”

D’Antoni said Conner is making progress out front at guard.

“Keep growing Jacob,” D’Antoni said. “He needs to be more vocal, more demanding as the lead guard.”

Crawford, the coach said, still has things to master despite the 17 points.

“You have to understand there’s playing the game well, and playing the game well and winning,” D’Antoni said. “You can be replaced on offense. You can’t replace on defense or rebounds. If you don’t guard, they score. If you battle on the boards, they rebound. He has the talent. It’s how to make that talent inclusive for everybody.”

Creighton Thieneman made two free throws with 1:10 left to put the Herd at 100 points. He received a nice ovation for that effort.

Curfman, who leads the Sun Belt in threes with 32, added three to the total.