HUNTINGTON — Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni has a definitive love for Italian food.
After all, it’s in the D’Antoni blood.
D’Antoni’s dinner on Tuesday, however, will include a strong Cajun flavor to be served promptly at 7 p.m. at Cam Henderson Center.
Given that Marshall recently joined the Sun Belt Conference, the game could be spiced up by the potential future rivalry.
While D’Antoni recognized the potential to make a bigger deal about Tuesday’s matchup, he also said that it means no more than Sunday’s win over Jackson State or any other non-conference matchup the Thundering Herd has moving forward.
They are simply all the same flavor.
“It’s a big game,” D’Antoni said. “Why? Because we’re playing on Tuesday night. They’re all big games and you’ve got to go one at a time.”
Marshall is coming off an 80-66 win over Jackson State in which the Herd got several key performances from its team to pull away down the stretch.
The biggest of those contributions came from Obinna Anochili-Killen, who finished with 15 points, 10 blocks and nine rebounds.
Despite coming off the bench, Killen leads the nation in blocked shots with 5.5 per game and is also averaging 12.8 points and eight rebounds per game.
“Now, you’re seeing him rebound and block shots,” D’Antoni said. “Offensively, again, he’s just touching what he can do. He’s worked on his shot. I think it’s so much better than when he first got here.”
Killen has been the Herd’s most consistent performer through the season’s first four games, and his presence will be critical on Tuesday in facing Louisiana, who is led by 6-11 forwards Jordan Brown (13.3 points, 7.0 rebounds) and Theo Akwuba (10 points, 8.5 rebounds).
Both Brown and Akwuba are similar in stature with Killen, which means there will be a definitive battle down low with Killen and Goran Miladinovic looking to protect the inside for the Herd.
D’Antoni said that Louisiana will be similar in nature to Jackson State, whom the Herd faced on Sunday afternoon, but have more length about their game.
One area that D’Antoni would like to see improvement is from 3-point range where the Herd has struggled in the early going, only connecting on 25.5 percent of attempts so far.
The Ragin’ Cajuns come into the season chosen to finish second in the Sun Belt behind Georgia State, meaning that Tuesday’s matchup gives the Herd a good barometer for the situation it will be entering when the team transitions to the SBC within the next two years.