West Virginia Marshall Basketball

Marshall's Austin Loop, right, is defended by West Virginia's Esa Ahmad during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Charleston, W.Va., on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Tyler Evert)

A crowd of 11,748 fans turned out to the Charleston Civic Center Thursday night to watch West Virginia’s two Division I institutions, West Virginia University and Marshall University, do battle on the hardwood. It’s a game that’s been played 44 times over the years and every year since 1992 at the Charleston Civic Center.

The future of the game, however, appears to be in question.

After WVU’s 69-66 win over the Herd last December, Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni hinted that the series might be in jeopardy when he commented that if the Mountaineers backed out, they were “afraid.”

Huggins responded on his radio show later in the week by saying that the series does WVU little good and suggesting it might be time to bring the annual clash to a close.

Rumors of the series not being renewed have swirled in recent weeks, though Huggins has avoided questions about the future of the Capital Classic.

Following WVU’s 86-68 win Thursday, D’Antoni made a passionate plea for the game to continue.

“It’s on my boy Huggins,” said the second-year head coach from Mullens, who wore a black T-shirt with the outline of the state of West Virginia with a script Marshall across it under his black suit. “Look at the crowd. Look at the energy. You don’t walk away from that.”

D’Antoni attempted to clarify his comments from a year ago, saying he meant no disrespect to the Mountaineers.

“If anybody should fear, it’s me,” he said. “I have to come in against a top 20 team. It should be me avoiding it. But this game is about more than that.

“I never meant last year that (Huggins) doesn’t do a great job.”

D’Antoni instead explained that when he played for the Thundering Herd from 1967 through 1970, his team really wanted to play the Mountaineers, but the game never happened. It didn’t when his brother, Mike, played for Marshall from 1970 through 1973, either.

“That’s not the way it should be done,” said D’Antoni. “It’s bigger than Marshall and bigger than West Virginia. It’s about the state. We’re all West Virginians.

“There’s no winners or losers. This is a game for the state. The crowd was there, and it was passionate. This game needs to be played. It’s for the young kids and the passion of basketball in this state. We have to grow our program to this level, and it’s going to be a great game. But we’re capable of doing that.”

As D’Antoni said, though, it takes two to tango, and there will be no game if WVU doesn’t agree to play. Following the game Thursday, Huggins shed little light on the current status.

“I don’t know,” he responded when asked if the Capital Classic will be played next season. “I’m trying to win games.

“I’m not worried about that. Whatever it is, it won’t affect anything we do.”

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