HUNTINGTON — Andy Taylor from Mayberry was known as the sheriff without a gun, but Marshall University basketball’s Andrew Taylor is a player who can shoot.
Taylor, a 6-foot-3 sophomore guard from Corbin, Kentucky, made 7 of 10 shots, including all five 3-point attempts, in scoring 20 points Saturday afternoon to lead the Thundering Herd to a 73-72 victory over North Texas in a Conference USA men’s basketball game at Cam Henderson Center. Taylor also made a career-high six steals, grabbed five rebounds and issued five assists.
Marshall (13-6 overall, 7-5 C-USA) performed significantly better than in its 77-65 loss to the Mean Green (13-7, 9-3) Friday night. That in itself was somewhat amazing, as the Herd played without senior guard Jarrod West, who averages 13.6 points, 6.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. West, regarded as the Herd’s best defender, missed the game with an injury.
“I didn’t like his job,” Taylor said of trying to guard North Texas star and C-USA player of the year Javion Hamlet, who scored a game-high 28 points. It was very tiring. I’m ready for him to get back.”
Hamlet scored 16 of the Mean Green’s final 18 to bring North Texas from a 14-point deficit to within one point of tying.
Marshall led 65-51 after Taylor’s 3-pointer with 9:37 left in the game. Hamlet then hit a pair of 3-point shots and a free throw before James Reese made a basket to cut the deficit to 65-63 with 5:49 remaining.
Taevion Kinsey swished a 3-point shot for Marshall at 4:56, but 19 seconds later, Hamlet countered with a trey of his own. Kinsey, who scored 18 points, made two free throws to make it 70-66 with 4:14 left only to see Hamlet hit another 3-pointer with 3:56 to go to make it a one-point game.
Kinsey hit a free throw and with 1:28 left made a basket on a shot that twice bounced on the rim before falling through to make it 73-69. With 1:13 left, Hamlet drove to the basket, but found himself underneath two defenders and pulled back, losing the ball out of bounds. The Herd didn’t score off the turnover, though, and Hamlet sank another 3-pointer with 38 seconds remaining.
Marshall ran the clock down to 8.1 seconds, but committed a shot clock violation that gave the Mean Green the ball and a chance to win.
“I have to go in there harder,” said Kinsey, who couldn’t fight through a pair of defenders to get off a shot. “I need to go do some push ups.”
Hamlet drove the lane and Taylor fell backward, but the 6-4 senior from Memphis, Tennessee, missed the shot and Jannson Williams, who played with an injured foot, rebounded for Marshall at the final horn.
“I didn’t really feel myself getting hit,” Taylor said of the final play. “It was a bad angle and I fell on my butt. It’s a good thing he didn’t hit that shot.”
Marshall coach Danny D’Antoni said he was proud of the way his team responded after being “bullied” Friday night.
“They’ve got pride,” D’Antoni said of his players. “All of them told you (Friday) they got bullied. They’re not going to get knocked down like that and stay down.”
The Herd was down, though, after Reese, who scored 15 points, opened the second half with a 3-pointer 12 seconds in to give North Texas a 36-35 lead. Marshall then scored on its next six possessions, with Taylor tallying 11 points during the 15-6 run to give the Herd a 50-42 lead and fire up the crowd of 1,228.
“We came out of halftime feeling we needed a big run to put them away,” Taylor said.
Kinsey, too, said the first few minutes of the second half were critical.
“We preach that if we can win the first five minutes, we can win the game,” Kinsey said. “(Taylor) took over.
The Herd returns to action at 6 p.m. Friday at home against C-USA East foe Charlotte and also will entertain the 49ers at 1 p.m. Sunday. North Texas will try to keep pace with C-USA West leader Louisiana Tech Friday and Saturday when it plays host to UAB.