HUNTINGTON — It’s a process.
That was the reverberating theme of Marshall University men’s basketball coach Dan D’Antoni following his team’s 96-70 loss to Toledo on Sunday afternoon at Cam Henderson Center.
D’Antoni opted to look to the positives, which included the Rockets shining a light on several areas where the Thundering Herd needs to improve to be successful.
“I said it was going to be up and down all year long,” D’Antoni said. “That’s the way it’s going to be. We can turn around and play this team dead-even and maybe beat them. You don’t know. Again, we’ve got things to work on and we’ll do that.”
One of the things that has led to D’Antoni’s success is the ability of his teams to work together on the floor. With a young team in search of leadership, Marshall (1-1) fell behind early and that cohesion was tested, which D’Antoni said was a teaching tool for the future.
“When we missed our threes and they jumped out to a 12, 14-point lead, I didn’t like the look on our face,” D’Antoni said. “It was like they were stunned — deer in headlights. That bothered me. I told them, ‘You can’t get like that. Stay focused. Play this game. It’s not the end of the world. Learn from everything, play hard and stay together.’”
Marshall sophomore Taevion Kinsey said the team panicked a bit after the early deficit and things started to snowball from there.
“We were down in our last game, but it wasn’t by that much,” Kinsey said. “We started panicking — yelling at each other, screaming at each other — things we can’t do as a young team. We’ve got to come out here and go hard early right out of the gate. We can’t make mistakes out of the gate.”
Sunday’s situation — falling behind early — was one that was new for the squad.
“Especially with this group, that’s definitely the first time that we’ve been in that situation, so I think we probably forced a little bit or tried to win it all back in one possession and you can’t do that on either end,” West said.
Learning how to handle such situations is part of the maturation process, which D’Antoni said he’s still eager to see develop. Newcomers only have two games of experience for the Herd and even the veterans with game experience are adapting to new roles within the framework, making all involved young in what they are doing in terms of the 2019-20 team.
Troubles such as the ones seen on Sunday are cured with trust, which also comes from experience together. As the trust comes, so too will the flow, according to D’Antoni.
Trust is also tested when shots aren’t falling, which Marshall has struggled with in each game to start the year. After a 4-for-20 performance from 3-point range in the win over Robert Morris, the Herd struggled to a 6-for-23 performance on Sunday. Many of those looks were open, too, which added to the team tightening up.
“Any time you play with young players, you’ll have a ‘What the heck happened,’” D’Antoni said. “That happens. They will season up.”