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Marshall hopeful a return home can bring much-needed lift to Herd in matchup with James Madison

— By Bill Cornwell

The struggling Marshall Men’s Basketball team hopes the adage of home-cooking is true as the Thundering Herd plays its final home games of the 2023-24 season this week at the Cam Henderson Center.

Losers of three straight games, Marshall (12-15, 7-7) plays host to James Madison (24-3, 11-3) at 7 p.m. Wednesday night at the Henderson Center.  The Dukes are seeking a seventh straight victory in a matchup that will air on ESPN+.

Poor shooting and defensive breakdowns were among the more pressing problems the Herd fought on the recent 0-3 road trip, which featured losses at Troy, Appalachian State and Coastal Carolina.

“There’s things we’ve got to clean up, but I think we’re very close,” sophomore forward Wyatt Fricks said. “It comes down to making shots, making smarter plays down the stretch and closing out games.”

Fricks says playing the Dukes and Appalachian State within weeks of earlier matchups helps Marshall’s preparation, though both teams present a stiff challenge.

James Madison defeated Marshall on January 20 in Harrisonburg, Va., 67-52. Terrence Edwards Jr. scored 20 points to lead the Dukes, while Marshall was led by Kamdyn Curfman’s 23 points.

“You know what they’re going to run,” Fricks said. “They’re not going to change much from when we played against them, so I believe we’ll have the same mindset and we’ve just got to complete things better than we did the first time around.”

The Dukes are in second place in the Sun Belt Conference standings, a game behind leader Appalachian State. The Mountaineers will be in Huntington Saturday night at 6 p.m. for a game that will be televised on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.

JMU features four players averaging double-figure scoring — Edwards (17.1), T.J. Bickerstaff (14), Noah Freidel (11.8) and Julien Wooden (10).

Bickerstaff is the Dukes’ top rebounder at 8.4 per game.

Marshall still has four double-figure scorers, but the margin between those scorers has narrowed. Leading scorer Obinna Anochili-Killen is coming off three subpar performances in which he’s scored a total of 11 points. He still leads Marshall with a 15.5 scoring average, followed by Kevon Voyles, who averages 14. Curfman’s 13.1 points per game and the 10.9 points per game of Nate Martin, who is also Marshall’s top rebounder at 9.6, round out those in double figures.

Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni is hopeful a return to play in front of the Herd faithful can provide his team with a much-needed spark late in the regular season.

“I believe in these kids and I promise you that they won’t give up,” D’Antoni said. “I know that our good fans will not give up on them.”

Marshall is currently in seventh place in the Sun Belt.

The Herd and James Madison have met seven previous times and the Dukes have won five.

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Marshall’s Sun Belt Conference-leading women’s basketball team remains on the road this week with games Wednesday at Texas State and Saturday at Louisiana-Monroe.

Wednesday’s game in San Marcos, Texas tips off at 8 p.m.

Marshall (19-6, 13-1) picked up road wins last week at Appalachian State and Old Dominion and maintains a two-game lead in the Sun Belt over Troy with three regular-season games remaining.

Texas State (13-14, 3-11) lost twice on the road last week at Troy and Southern Miss.

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