HUNTINGTON, W.Va--A career performance by Marshall basketball's Ryan Taylor gave the Herd its third consecutive win after defeating North Carolina Central (3-6, 1-1) 92-73 Monday night at the Cam Henderson Center in the second game of the Global Sports Classic.
Taylor led all scorers with a career-high 27 points while stuffing the stat sheet in every category. The junior grabbed three rebounds; forced three steals and had three blocks in 27 minutes of action. He finished 10-of-12 from the field and a perfect 7-of-7 from the charity stripe.
Marshall (3-6) had four players finish in double-figures for the seventh time this season. Austin Loop made it back-to-back 20-point games, netting 20 points in the win while shooting 6-12 from long range. The junior surpassed the 500-point mark in his career when he nailed his final triple of the game.
Conference USA Freshman of the Week C.J. Burks added 12 points and three assists off the bench and James Kelly produced his third double-double in four games, finishing with 10 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high four assists.
"It's fun to play and it is fun to watch," Marshall head coach Dan D'Antoni said. "First few games we didn't have any rhythm; we missed our 3-point shots. It depends on 3-point shots and getting layups. It is hard to guard when we knock down the 3-point shots."
In its last four halves of basketball, Marshall has scored 48, 48, 46 and 46 points respectively. The Herd's 92 points also marked the first time it has produced back-to-back 90+-point games since 2013 (119 in a win over Rio Grande and 94 in a loss to Morehead State.)
NCCU opened the scoring on a three-pointer by Dejaun Graf only to have Loop match with one of his own. Loop's second triple of the game tied the game at eight with 16:39 left in the half, then tied it again at 18 with his third three of the game.
"It was great, especially what I was talking about the other night," Loop said. "Had such a late start; it was just nice to pick up where I left off. It was just fun basketball with everyone playing together, getting three in a row, getting Jon [Elmore] back. I think this is the best thing for us coming into WVU [on Thursday]."
Marshall took its first lead of the game at 20-18, on a Stevie Browning layup setup by a midair touch pass by Taylor. The Eagles used a 6-0 run to regain control at 28-26 with 7:08 remaining and pushed their lead to four after back-to-back Patrick Cole layups made it 35-31.
Cole finished with 15 points in his first action with the Eagles.
Marshall took the lead for good with 3:39 left in the half on a Taylor layup and closed out the final four minutes on a 13-4 run, six coming from Taylor.
"It was kind of easy tonight," Taylor said. "I'm not saying they [NCCU] weren't trying to play defense or anything, but I got a lot of layups."
Taylor's dominance continued to open the second half, as the Herd ran off an 8-2 run. Taylor added four more points to his total and a Kelly finger roll at the rim, pushed the lead to 11.
Jeremiah Ingram cut the lead to nine after his layup netted two of his career-high 21 points for the Eagles with 15:09 left in the game. Back-to-back buckets by Dante Holmes trimmed the Herd's led to only eight, but Marshall would extend its advantage to 15 after two more Loop threes and a Kelly tomahawk dunk midway through the second half.
"I'm kind of just like the ‘garbage man'," Kelly said. "When they miss I just try to get the board, put it back in, and block shots."
Making his first appearance as a member of the Herd, Jon Elmore dumped in his fifth point with a layup with 8:01 left and a 76-60 lead.
"I felt it was very important that he got to play this game," D'Antoni said of Elmore. "It'll take him, like the others, a few games before he gets into a rhythm. It'll be nothing but improved play for him."
NCCU cut the Marshall lead to 15 one final time, before a 9-3 Herd run sparked by Taylor and Burks pushed the deficit to 21 with 4:22 remaining.
Jacob Kilgore's 15-foot jumper made it 90-67 with 2:11 to go, and the Herd's largest lead of the night. Kilgore finished with a career-high five points.
Marshall finished with 21 assists and only nine turnovers while shooting a season-best 54.4 percent from the field.
Marshall travels to Charleston Civic Center Thursday evening for a matchup with in-state rival No. 20/16 WVU in the 44th annual Chesapeake Energy Capital Classic.
"In-state rival, big game, ranked opponent," Taylor said. "We're coming off of three straight. It doesn't get any more exciting than that. The whole state will be watching. Televised game; nationally televised game. We're all ready. I think we're playing good basketball and everyone is ready to play in Charleston."