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Marshall's Taevion Kinsey (24) drives the lane against North Texas defender Rubin Jones (15) during an NCAA men’s basketball game on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, at the Cam Henderson Center in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — Marshall guard Taevion Kinsey can feel his team’s improvement in each day.

The Thundering Herd’s six-game losing streak has taken its toll on everyone, but Kinsey can sense bigger things on the horizon.

That’s why as soon as Thursday’s 69-65 loss to North Texas was over, Kinsey’s focus was forward.

That wasn’t the only reason, though.

Marshall’s next opponent is one that Kinsey remembers well.

Saturday’s 7 p.m. opponent is Rice, the same team that upset the Herd in the 2021 Conference USA Tournament’s first round, which ended Marshall’s season.

“I don’t know about the guys, but it’s still fresh in my mind,” Kinsey said. “It still left a bad taste in my mouth and I’m pretty sure it left a bad taste in a lot of guys’ mouths. We’re definitely going to use that as motivation moving on.”

Part of the reason that was so fresh for Kinsey is because that loss took place on his birthday — a day in which he was hoping to lead the Herd to the C-USA quarterfinals and continue the quest for a title.

Instead, Rice got hot from the floor early and was able to hold off each challenge the Herd presented, ending its season.

Marshall’s offense faltered early from the outside, which led to a deficit the Herd couldn’t overcome despite the team getting hot late.

In a lot of ways, that loss to Rice in the 2021 Conference USA Tournament is reminiscent of what Marshall has been going through during its current six-game losing streak.

Marshall’s offense has been slow to start, falling behind by sizable deficits from which the team cannot recover.

Kinsey said that can’t happen Saturday with Rice possessing a strong starting team.

That was shown on Thursday when Rice (9-6 overall, 2-2 in Conference USA) went on the road and built a double-digit lead at Western Kentucky before the Hilltoppers came back late.

Now, Marshall (7-9, 0-3) wants to reverse its trend and change its own script by getting out of the gates quickly against the Owls.

“We can’t keep with these slow starts, coming out here,” Kinsey said. “We’re at home. We shouldn’t have any slow starts. This is our court. We should be making shots. I have to be a better leader with that and make sure our guys are locked in from the beginning of the game.”

If Marshall is able to do that, Kinsey feels like the end of games will be very different for the Herd.

“The finishing part will take care of itself when you start out the right way,” Kinsey said.

For Marshall to reverse its fortune, the Herd will have to contain a few players that were tough to handle last season.

Rice guard Quincy Olivari scored 23 points while forward Max Fiedler added 15 for the Owls last season. Both also grabbed nine rebounds in the win.

Kinsey, who had 29 points in Thursday’s loss to North Texas, said his focus is on using Saturday’s contest against the Owls to cure several ills for the Herd.

Not only does he want to atone for last year’s disappointment, but more importantly, he also wants to end this year’s disappointment.

“We’re not looking at last year,” Kinsey said. “We’re looking at this year and how we can become a better team and how we can be a better team than them on Saturday.”

Marshall’s six-game losing streak is its longest since opening the 2015-16 season with six straight losses.

Grant Traylor is the sports editor of The Herald-Dispatch, who also covers Marshall athletics for HD Media. Follow him on Twitter @GrantTraylor.

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