BOGACZYK: Kelly's 20-20 Provides Vision for Herd Triumph
The Word on the Herd - Feb. 18, 2016
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - On Friends of Coal Night at the Henderson Center, Marshall wore black uniforms for a basketball home game Thursday.
The dominating hue, however, was unquestionably Kelly.
Herd senior James Kelly turned in a game for the ages, in what was his 12th double-double of the season ... by halftime. When the 6-foot-8 senior left the floor with 3:34 to play, he'd finished with 27 points and 23 rebounds as Marshall rolled to an 87-72 Conference USA victory over Charlotte.
It was payback time for the Herd (14-12, 10-3), which fell to the 49ers, 103-95, four weeks ago.
Ditto for Kelly. In that game, 6-10 Charlotte post man Joseph Uchebo had his own 20-20, with 24 points and 21 rebounds. That was Kelly's fuel this time, as the Miami (Fla.) transfer posted the first 20-20 game for a Marshall player in 43 years.
The last of those came by 6-8 Randy Noll, at Veterans Memorial Field House on Jan. 6, 1973. Noll, a senior that season, had 25 points and 20 rebounds in an 83-72 triumph over Eastern Kentucky. The previous season, Noll had a 33-point, 21-rebound game in a Marshall Memorial Invitational title win over No. 8 St. John's on Dec. 18, 1971. That's still the highest-ranked team the Herd has beaten in its history.
Kelly's 23 rebounds compare favorably back even further ... to the senior season of his coach, Dan D'Antoni. Kelly's number is the highest board total for the Herd since D'Antoni teammate Bob Allen corralled 25 in a 131-91 rout of visiting Old Dominion on Feb. 27, 1968.
Only two players in Herd history have had more rebounds in a game than Kelly produced against the 49ers - the great Charlie Slack did it 18 times in the 1950s, and allen had games of 28 and 25 in the '67-68 season.
"I thought we saw what (Kelly) is capable of doing," D'Antoni said after his team moved into a second-place tie with Middle Tennessee in C-USA. "He scored, rebounded and defended very well tonight. He did a solid job of limiting Uchebo, who is a very talented player."
Only one Division I player this season has eclipsed Kelly's 23. Five days earlier in the Mountain West, Nevada's Cameron Oliver pulled down 24 in a 77-72 overtime victory over Fresno State.
"Uh, no ... nope," Kelly responded when asked if he'd previously had a 20-20, either in high school in Ann Arbor, Mich., or in two big statistical seasons at Owens Community College in Ohio.
Kelly's inside effort was really needed against the 49ers (10-16, 6-7), too, since teammate Ryan Taylor went to the bench only 3:18 into the game with two personals. Taylor finished with four points, two rebounds and four personals in 13 minutes.
It was the first time in his 89-game career that the junior failed to score a field goal.
Forward Terrence Thompson came off the bench in relief of Taylor to provide 16 solid minutes against the school from which he transferred before a junior college stop last season.
Kelly had 13 points and 10 rebounds by halftime, but the Herd scoring and rebounding leader said he was just playing the game.
"It just happened, but like I said, I took it personally," he said. "(Uchebo) got 21 rebounds the last game and I think I only had 14 (to go with 27 points). And basically it's a big matchup there and I gave what our crowd was looking for. I battled back.
"I'm just playing. I'm just doing what I'm told to do. I didn't even know I had 10 rebounds at the half. My biggest focus was rebounding this game."
Kelly said assistant coach Scott Rigot told him his numbers at halftime, "so then it was just, `stay on the boards, stay on the boards.'"
He said Taylor's absence for much of the contest played a part in his big game, too.
"I've just got to play physical and more smart, you know," Kelly said. "If he gets in foul trouble, I've got to make sure I keep myself in the game and keep myself under control."
Uchebo struggled on a 1-for-7 night and pulled in nine rebounds, but played only 21 minutes. Asked if he tried any different tactics against the 49ers' post man than he had in the earlier game, Kelly nodded.
"Attack him," the Herd senior said. "The last game, I settled for jump shots, and he's not really good banging up with his feet, so I just tried to attack him and get him in foul trouble."
After getting a win in only its third home date since mid-January, Marshall remains at "The Cam" for a Saturday night visit by Old Dominion (15-11, 8-5) and guard Trey Freeman. He Monarchs' star and Kelly rank 1-2, respectively, in C-USA scoring.
The Herd won at ODU, 78-75, on Kelly's last-second 3-pointer on Jan. 23. Old Dominion won at Western Kentucky on Thursday night, 59-56.