Marshall effectively neutralized one of the state’s top freshmen on Sunday. His replacement was another matter.
East St. Louis’ star 6-9 freshman Jeremiah Tilmon was hampered by foul trouble and missed his only shot attempt in going scoreless against the Commandos. Jerry Beckner Jr., a burly 6-5 junior, came off the bench and scored all 15 of his points in the second half and added 10 rebounds for good measure.
Marshall fought back from an eight-point fourth quarter deficit but faltered down the stretch and dropped its season opener 64-58 to the Flyers in the Team Rose Shootout at Curie on Sunday.
Senior forward James King scored 13 points and senior guard Citon Miller added 10 points to lead the Commandos (0-1). Senior wing forward Darrion Beane led all scorers with 19 points for the Flyers.
“It goes down as a loss, but I’m pleased by the result,” Marshall coach Henry Cotton said. “We made some mistakes offensively and we made some mistakes defensively, but they are all correctable.”
After trailing throughout the first half, Marshall rallied in the second quarter behind Lonnel Williams, a transfer from Foreman. He scored seven of his nine points during the frame. His three-pointer from the right wing provided the Commandos’ first lead at 28-27. His steal and layup helped Marshall lead 33-31 at the break.
Marshall could not sustain its second quarter energy level as Beckner Jr. began to assert his will on the interior. He scored eight points in the third quarter, including his team’s final six points in giving the Flyers (3-1) a four-point edge, 47-43, to start the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t do as good as job as we should defending him,” Miller said. “We took some plays off defensively, and that hurt us.”
A Beckner three-point play and a Jesse Douglas layup gave East St. Louis its largest advantage 60-52, with just over three minutes remaining.
Marshall utilized its trademark withering pressure to force six East St. Louis turnovers in the fourth quarter. Miller nailed a three-pointer from the right wing with 47 seconds remaining for a one-possession game, 60-57.
Marshall forced a turnover out of the timeout but Miller’s three-point shot for the tie rimmed out. “It was a good look, and I knew we needed a basket at that point,” Miller said.
East St. Louis iced the game with free throws in the closing seconds.
Sophomore guard Tyrese Williford added seven points for the Commandos.
“This was our first game of the year, and we had some nervousness and jitters out there,” Cotton said. “I liked a lot of what we did out there. The mistakes that we made, it’s like a splinter, and we can get those out.”