Kambola steps up for injured players
HUNTINGTON — J.P. Kambola was the next man up in Marshall Thundering Herd men’s basketball head coach Tom Herrion’s rotation.
Marshall was missing two inside players last weekend with Rob Goff and Yous Mbao knocked out of action after a collision in practice left them both with significant head injuries.
Herrion didn’t hesitate sending Kambola into the game early, even knowing the 6-foot-9, 240-pound sophomore had been in only two games this season for a total of six minutes and appeared in just nine games last season for 13 minutes.
“He’s a good player,” Herrion said. “He just hasn’t gotten to play that much. I had faith in him and he gave us real good minutes.”
Kambola played for a career-high seven minutes in the first half. He returned for one minute of the second half, hitting a baseline jump shot that put Marshall ahead by 19 with 14:24 remaining in an 89-82 defeat of the Nevada Wolf Pack.
Goff and Mbao are sidelined indefinitely, so Kambola will likely be hearing his name called again.
“A couple guys went down, so I had to step up,” said Kambola, who has career statistics of 12 game appearances, 27 minutes played, six points, five rebounds and one blocked shot.
“Coach prepared me. He said be ready.”
Morehead State (4-2) visits Marshall (3-3) at 7 p.m., Wednesday in the 94th meeting all-time between schools separated by about one hour on I-64. The teams play for the Ellis Johnson Trophy, a traveling prize awarded to the winning team.
It’s the renewal of a rivalry that was discontinued after the last meeting on Dec. 1, 2007.
The Eagles from the Ohio Valley Conference are coached by former University of Kentucky guard Sean Woods, who is expected to be on the bench after sitting out a Monday victory over Norfolk State on a one-game school suspension for shoving a player during a game last week at Kentucky.
Kambola’s entrance at 15:59 of the first half was the earliest call he’s had in college and only the second time he was on the court in the first half of a game.
“He came in and gave us big minutes,” said Marshall starting center Nigel Spikes. “Our bench played really good that game. Everybody knows once somebody goes down the next guy steps up.”
The soft-spoken Kambola, a Canadian from Toronto who played for a top-rated team at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, N.J., bides his time on the bench paying attention to the game to be ready when his time comes.
Spikes is usually the player he watches most closely. Kambola said he watches what the player in front of him is doing and what the guy he’s guarding is doing.
Kambola’s line in Saturday’s boxscore — two points, one rebound and two fouls — didn’t seem like much, but he’ll take it.
“That will help me in my confidence,” he said. “Confidence is key in basketball.”
All-Conference USA guard Dre Kane leads Marshall in scoring (16.5), followed by forward Elijah Pittman (15.5), guard D.D. Scarver (13.7) and forward Dennis Tinnon (12.7). Spikes scores 6.7 per game and leads the team with 8.5 rebounds a game.
Kane is ranked second nationally with 9.2 assists per game.
Marshall began the season with four of its first five games away from campus, and is in a stretch when 11 consecutive games are in Cam Henderson Center or within 125 miles of campus.
The next opponent is Morehead State, and Herrion expects the Eagles to be a handful.
“This game presents new challenges for us with their speed and aggressiveness,” Herrion said.
Milton Chavis of the Eagles is a 6-6 forward averaging 18.5 points and 5.2 rebounds. Chavis is a versatile wing player with size who can make 3-point shots and is creative in the lane, Herrion said.
Morehead State has a deep bench with nine players getting more than 13 minutes per game and 6-11 Chad Posthumus averaging 9.2 minutes. Maurice Lewis-Briggs, a 6-8 forward, scores 9.6 a game while 6-7 Kahlil Owens, 6-4 Bakari Turner, 6-3 Angelo Warner and 6-1 Devon Atkinson all score more than six a game.
The Eagles faced some strong opponents in losses at Maryland (67-45) and No. 8 Kentucky (81-70). At Kentucky, the Eagles led by 11 twice in the first half and had a six-point lead in the second half.
Chavis had 19 points and 10 rebounds Monday in a 73-67 win over Norfolk State in Ellis Johnson Arena.
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