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Mean Green motors in

Jan. 16, 2014 @ 12:44 AM

HUNTINGTON -- This shapes up as Shawn Smith's kind of basketball game.

North Texas sprints into Cam Henderson Center for a 7 p.m. Thursday men's contest with a squad Marshall University head coach Tom Herrion said is one of the fastest the Thundering Herd will see.

"Tremendous team speed," Herrion said.

The Mean Green from Denton, Texas, takes the basketball from the net and runs after the opponent scores, and they run with rebounds when the opponent misses.

They run, run, run.

Smith said he likes to run too.

Marshall's junior forward averaging 9.4 points and 4.2 rebounds from off the bench packs some speed in a 6-foot-6, 228-pound body.

Smith said guards Kareem Canty and Kevin McNair are the Herd's fastest players, but he's right there with them.

"I want to go (fast)," he said. "Running and a lot of dunks. That gets the crowd into it."

North Texas (9-7), formerly part of the Sun Belt Conference, is off to an 0-2 start in its first Conference USA season after a pair of losses at home against Southern Miss (74-64) and Tulane (73-62).

The Herd (6-11) is also 0-2 in C-USA after losing at UTSA (90-81) and UTEP (76-66).

Herrion said the Mean Green will be hungry to get a win, but so is the Herd, which also plays a noon Saturday home game against Tulsa.

"We have to get to one (conference win) to get to two," he said. "It starts Thursday."

The Herd coach said the pressure North Texas applies with its transition game got his attention. Marshall can slow down North Texas somewhat by making shots and getting its defense set, Herrion said.

Smith smiled at the mention of a track meet possibly breaking out, but emphasized the importance of playing good defense and rebounding in any game.

North Texas is scoring 72.0 points per game, but fell off to a 68.5 average in its losses with five games of less than 70. The Mean Green is plus-1.3 in rebounds for the season, but was outrebounded seven times and lost six of those games.

"We want to go too, but we have to play smart -- not just go up and down," Smith said.

Alzee Wiliams is a 6-4 senior leading North Texas with a 13.0 scoring average while 6-6 junior Jordan Williams adds 11.3. T.J. Taylor, a 6-3 junior, is next with 8.9 a game followed by 6-2 junior Chris Jones (8.0), 6-2 Vertrail Vaughns (7.8) and 6-5 sophomore Maurice Aniefiok (7.4).

Jordan Williams and 6-7 junior Colin Voss are the top rebounders with 6.0 and 5.9 respectively.

Aniefiok, a transfer from Ole Miss who played at Huntington Prep, is a 43.5 percent 3-point shooter (20-for-46).

"They're a pretty deep club," Herrion said.

Marshall has C-USA's third-highest scoring team at 80.4 points a game and allows 76.7. The Herd is plus-1.0 in rebounds.

Canty, a 6-1 freshman point guard, leads Marshall with 16.4 points per game and tops C-USA with 6.5 assists while playing the second-most minutes in the league at 36.2.

The Herd also has 6-5 freshman forward Ryan Taylor producing 13.5 points and 7.0 rebounds. Chris Thomas is a 6-5 sophomore scoring 11.6.

Yous Mbao, the Herd's 7-2 senior backup center, is bothered by a significant problem with his left knee and it's unknown when he might be able to play again, Herrion said. Mbao wasn't uniform last week for the first two conference games.

Another inside player, 6-9 junior J.P. Kambola, has been sidelined all season because of an NCAA eligibility issue.

Game notes: Marshall is offering a two-for-one ticket special. Any general admission ticket purchased for Thursday is also good for Saturday. ... Marshall and North Texas met one other time, an 81-78 victory for the Herd on Dec. 28, 1990, at the Hoosier Classic in indianapolis.

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