MIAMI, Florida — Marshall’s men’s basketball team put the bank in Ocean Bank Convocation Center in Miami on Saturday afternoon.
With the game tied midway through the second half, the Herd got a banked in 3-pointer by Darius George to start a 19-4 run that led to an 89-72 win over FIU.
It turned into a valuable road trip for the Herd, who earned the first road sweep for a Conference USA team in the league’s back-to-back format in the 2020-21 league season.
“That’s one,” Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni said. “We put ourselves down one with the loss to Western Kentucky, but if we keep doing it, we’re one game out in the loss column. We’ve just got to keep winning ballgames.”
In the win, Marshall (9-4, 3-3 C-USA) got 22 points and 12 rebounds from Taevion Kinsey while Andrew Taylor had another big performance with 20 points and six rebounds.
However, the biggest performance of the day came from freshman David Early, who scored 14 points and had some big momentum-swinging plays for the Herd in both of its key runs.
Marshall outscored FIU by 27 points during Early’s 20 minutes of action. After George (10 points) banked in the 3-pointer to start the 19-4 run, it was Early who took that run over to push the Herd’s lead to double-figures.
In a two-minute stretch, Early knocked down a 3-pointer, hit Kinsey with a no-look pass for a dunk, then followed with a three-point play as he finished through contact to turn a two-possession game into a 77-66 lead.
That final 3-point play came at the 5:00 mark and took the life out of FIU. It came in a switch with Early being guarded by smaller FIU guard Jonathan Nunez. Early went to a spin move to gain advantage down low and all Nunez could do was foul the 6-4, 240-pound freshman.
“Dan always tells us, if you have a mismatch, just go post up,” Early said.
Marshall’s efforts on Saturday strangely mirrored that of Friday’s win over the Panthers, as well.
On Friday, FIU used the 3-point shot to claw back within 62-60 with 9:42 remaining, but Marshall steadied itself in the win.
On Saturday, the Panthers got a 3-pointer from Javaunte Hawkins to tie things at 62 with 9:39 left, but again could not get over the hump as the Herd locked down defensively over the final 10 minutes, allowing just four field goals.
While D’Antoni was pleased with the win, he wasn’t pleased that his team squandered another double-digit lead.
“Somehow we’ve got to figure out how to do it for the whole game,” D’Antoni said. “I’m not proud that we’re only doing it 10 minutes. It’s basically locking down and playing their positions defensively.”
Marshall trailed by as many as nine in the first half as FIU found gaps in the Herd defense and Hawkins got hot from the outside.
However, it was Early’s presence that again woke the Herd up. The freshman from Logan scored eight consecutive points during a 15-2 run, showcasing his shooting ability from the outside with his ability to finish at the rim through contact, as well.
Kinsey said he spoke with Early about playing his game coming into the weekend.
“I know David can attack,” Kinsey said. “I couldn’t do that as a freshman. I was just playing my role. But he can attack and go use his body. I tell him, ‘Use your physicality. Use that body to your advantage.’ That’s exactly what he did today.”
FIU cut the deficit to one, but a 3-point play by Taylor and a 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock by Jannson Williams gave the Herd a 43-36 lead at the half.
Hawkins led FIU (8-8, 2-6) with 20 points — many of which came on the strength of six 3-pointers — while Antonio Daye returned to the starting lineup and had a nice game with 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Panthers, who have now lost five straight games.
Marshall returns to the court at 6 p.m. on Friday against Florida Atlantic at Cam Henderson Center.