HUNTINGTON — Normally, a coach wants his players focused on the upcoming season and the task at hand of trying to win a conference title.
Still, there were two words that seemed to reverberate as Marshall men’s basketball players spoke of the start of the 2020-21 season — words that lent themselves to looking at what might have been in 2018-19.
Those words? Unfinished business.
Marshall’s players felt like they found their stride at the end of the 2018-19 campaign, only to see it end abruptly before the Conference USA quarterfinals due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marshall sophomore guard Andrew Taylor said the scenario plays in his mind like a bad dream.
“Everyone remembers that,” Taylor said. “They remember that feeling. They remember waking up the next day and not being able to play. Everyone remembers that very vividly.
“We always talk about as team that we’ve got unfinished business. ... Every day, before we step out on this court, we’ve got to keep that in mind — what got took from us last year. That’s just extra motivation for us.”
After starting the year 2-6, Marshall started to find its offensive rhythm toward the end of the season, winning seven of its last nine games, including an 86-78 win over UTEP in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament.
Instead of getting a quarterfinal matchup against Louisiana Tech, the Herd’s season came to an end around noon on March 12.
“Us having to stop, I definitely think there’s some business that needs to be finished,” Kinsey said.
Kinsey, who scored 21 of his 26 points in the first half of that win over the Miners, said the team got through the early-season struggles together, which helped them grow as well.
As they got on a roll near season’s end, the chemistry mixed with the team’s athleticism and the system of head coach Dan D’Antoni to create a team that was tough to beat on both ends.
Kinsey said the best was yet to come, too.
“I really felt like we were going to come alive at that point in time,” Kinsey said. “It was hard to stop at that time.”
Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni wasn’t as apt to look back at last year’s ending so much as to look forward to the group he has returning.
The team has everyone back from that 17-15 campaign and they’ve added some pieces as well in freshmen David Early, Obinna Anochili-Killen and C.J. Meredith.
“I think they know how good they are,” D’Antoni said. “They know they’re good, and they know they’re capable of winning our conference and going on, but knowing you are, that doesn’t get it. You’ve got to go out there on the court and prove that you are.”
The one thing that D’Antoni said he liked about his team heading into 2020-21 is that the energy level and focus for the upcoming season echoes the end to last season.
Starting out in 2018-19, Marshall’s players had to learn to trust in one another, which led to slowed pace that was reflected in the team’s 2-6 start.
D’Antoni sees no such issues this season, but also warned that everyone knows how good his team can be and every other team in Conference USA has goals to knock the Herd off.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” D’Antoni said. “Every team is 0-0 and every team has ambitions to get into the NCAA tournament. There are good coaches in our conference and good players in our conference. We just have to bring it every day.”