With just over a minute to go in the game, and West Virginia University holding a 17-point lead, Mountaineer fans began chanting “This is our state!”
WVU can certainly claim statewide supremacy following Wednesday’s convincing 78-62 victory over rival Marshall in the annual meeting at the Chesapeake Energy Capital Classic, played at the Charleston Civic Center.
WVU improves to 14-5. Marshall falls to 13-5.
The Thundering Herd seemed to control the first half, but a late WVU surge squashed Marshall’s lead — and perhaps its hopes.
A Darryl “Truck” Bryant 3-pointer at the buzzer tied the game at 30-30 at the intermission, allowing WVU to come back from a 27-20 deficit just three minutes prior.
The momentum carried over into the second half too.
“We had a really bad finish to the first half, Marshall coach Tom Herrion acknowledged. “It continued from there. We didn’t get into a flow offensively, missed some chippys and didn’t get to the free throw line enough.
“We did a poor job in a lot of areas.”
Kevin Jones paced the Mountaineers with 25 points and seven rebounds. Bryant added 22 points and seven boards. Jabarie Hinds chipped in with 10 points, five rebounds and three assists.
Marshall got 19 points from DeAndre Kane. Damier Pitts had 15 points including three 3s. Dennis Tinnon pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds.
Marshall came into the contest as one of the nation’s best rebounding squads statistically.
The Herd had won every rebounding stat battle of the season — until Wednesday.
WVU pulled down 37 to Marshall’s 27 boards.
“We were grossly outplayed,” Herrion stated. “They took it to us. They were the aggressor. They beat us to every 50-50 ball.”
“It’s discouraging and disappointing,” he added. “But we have to move on. We have to get back into (Conference USA) play Saturday at Southern Miss.”
WVU won the battle of the boards without its starting center, Deniz Kilicli, who missed the contest due to a sprained ankle. He suffered the injury Monday in practice. It is unknown how long the 6-foot-9 junior will be out.
“We outrebounded the best (rebounding) team without Deniz,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said slyly. “Maybe we shouldn’t play him anymore.
“We worked on (rebounding) in practice. We worked on blocking out. I told them, ‘Don’t make me put you on the treadmill.’ I thought (reserve post player) Kevin Noreen did a great job. He does some things Deniz doesn’t. He passes the ball well and has a good understanding of the game.”
Mountaineer freshman guard Gary Browne is new to the rivalry, but said he could relate to the intensity.
He contributed 10 points and five rebounds himself.
“I’m from Puerto Rico and I played on the national team,” he explained. “Every time we played against Mexico or the Dominican Republic, it was the same thing — maybe even worse. I love playing in that kind of atmosphere. This win means a lot to our university, to our staff and to our fans. We’re supposed to win these games. When the crowd gets pumped up, that’s great.”
WVU hosts Cincinnati Saturday at 3 p.m.
WEST VIRGINIA 78, MARSHALL 62
Tinnon 3-7 0-0 6, Goff 1-3 0-0 2, Pitts 6-13 0-0 15, Johnson 2-7 2-2 7, Kane 9-18 1-1 19, Pena 2-4 0-0 5, Spikes 1-3 0-3 2, Coleman 3-5 0-0 6, Mbao 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-60 3-6 62.
WEST VIRGINIA (14-5)
Jones 8-12 6-6 25, Noreen 3-5 0-0 6, Miles 0-1 0-0 0, Hinds 5-6 0-0 10, Bryant 7-20 6-7 22, Rutledge 0-1 1-2 1, Brown 2-2 0-1 4, Browne 3-7 4-6 10. Totals 28-54 17-22 78.
Halftime—Tied 30-30. 3-Point Goals—Marshall 5-19 (Pitts 3-7, Pena 1-3, Johnson 1-3, Coleman 0-1, Kane 0-5), West Virginia 5-14 (Jones 3-4, Bryant 2-8, Browne 0-2). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Marshall 27 (Tinnon 10), West Virginia 37 (Bryant, Jones 7). Assists—Marshall 11 (Johnson, Kane, Pitts 3), West Virginia 13 (Hinds, Jones 3). Total Fouls—Marshall 20, West Virginia 12. Technical—Kane. A—12,684.