Bassey a different challenge for Herd

AP photoWestern Kentucky center Charles Bassey (23) defends Alabama forward/guard Herbert Jones on the final shot of the game, an Alabama miss, that sealed a 73-71 win for the Hilltoppers Dec. 19, 2020, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

One of the challenges Marshall has had to face this season was trying to contain Wright State 6-foot-7 center Loudon Love.

Love got his rebounds — 16 of them — but was just 5-of-12 from the floor and finished with 11 points, and the Thundering Herd left with an 80-64 victory.

On Friday, the Herd will be faced with another big man in Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky’s 6-foot-11, 235-pound center. This time, the challenge is altogether different, coach Dan D’Antoni says.

“There’s a big difference,” the Mullens native said. “Six-eleven can go up over top of you. Six-seven tries to go through you. You get a chance, you can take a charge. ... When you’re 6-11 and you can go up over top easily right at the rim, that’s tougher. It’s a comparison, but it’s not a true comparison because of the four or five inches and probably another inch or two in reach because (Bassey) is so long.”

Finding a way to slow Bassey down will be the target not once but twice with the Conference USA rivals meeting Friday in Bowling Green, Ky., and again Sunday at Cam Henderson Center. Friday’s tip-off will be 5 p.m., and Sunday’s game will start at 2 p.m. Both games can be seen on CBS Sports Network.

Bassey is fourth in the nation in both rebounding (11.8) and blocked shots (3.25) and averages 16.8 points per game. He has eight double-doubles in 12 games and has been named C-USA Player of the Week five times.

Bassey is projected as a first-round selection in the 2021 NBA Draft. D’Antoni, of course, has plenty of NBA experience as a longtime assistant to brother Mike at stops in New York, Los Angeles and Phoenix and says Bassey is “running better now and moving better. ... Vertically and running straight, he’s fine. I would like to see what he does with side-to-side movement.”

Figuring out how to guard Bassey is a focus in practice this week. One option is Goran Miladinovic, a 7-foot, 235-pound sophomore center.

“Goran is as talented a big man as I have seen,” D’Antoni said. “I’m not telling you something I haven’t told him 50,000 times — he’s just got to put more sweat equity into his game. He has to understand the intensity and mental focus he has to have all the time.”

That means there will be multiple ways the Herd (7-2, 1-1 C-USA) will attack the big man. Mikel Beyers and Jannson Williams, a pair of 6-9 forwards, will get involved.

“It’s an interesting matchup,” D’Antoni said. “We’ll have to see what Goran can do by himself with him. If we had Iran (Bennett, who is out with injury), that would give you a little bit more idea of maybe we just keep big on bigs. But there are going to be times Goran might need some help. I don’t think he is as developed inside as Bassey, so he may need some help. We are going to have to team defend him a little bit, scheme it up a little bit defensively.”

“Where do we fall in that line about, ‘OK, where is our advantage as compared to their advantage? How much is one way or the other?’ I’m sure Bassey has the advantage inside with Mike and Jannson going at him, certainly. We would certainly have the advantage outside with Bassey guarding them. Who wins that? You don’t know till the game is over.”

Freshman Obinna Anochili-Killen, a 6-8, 199-pound forward, might also get his chance at Bassey.

“We’re probably going to use everybody,” D’Antoni said. “We’re going to be active around him. We’re going to see what Goran can do and then we are going to have to be active. When we start getting active, then you’re talking about quick players that have to maybe double up on him and force him to be a little quicker than maybe he wants to be.”

Email: gfauber@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @GaryFauber

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