WVU played much better after spirited surge
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kevin Noreen never had started a game before Wednesday night and only played in a handful of them with West Virginia last season, but the redshirt freshman has been around long enough to get a feeling for what was awaiting the Mountaineers at the end of the first half.
Marshall used a 10-0 run to take a 27-20 lead and just 3 minutes, 12 seconds stood between Coach Bob Huggins and a spirited lecture behind closed doors at the Capital Classic.
"It was going to be one of those halftimes," said Noreen, who played in place of injured Deniz Kilicli.
The Mountaineers may never know. As Marshall tried to blow the game open, WVU tried to keep it close and scraped together seven straight points.
"They're a very opportunistic team and when they see they've got you down, they try to keep you down," senior Kevin Jones said. "I think that's what teams should do. Once we got a chance to do that to them, that's what we did."
After tying the game, WVU answered a Thundering Herd 3 with one of its own to again tie the score, 30-30, at halftime. With the momentum shifted, the Mountaineers trailed just once and for only 16 seconds in the second half of the 78-62 victory before 12,684 at the Civic Center.
"We got up and then had too many letdowns," said Marshall guard Damier Pitts. "You can't let a good team like that come back when you get them down. They just outplayed us, outplayed us a lot."
DeAndre Kane's layup gave the Herd (13-5) their largest lead of the game and the Mountaineers (14-5) went with their best option. Jones missed from close, but freshman Aaron Brown swooped in for the rebound and scored while being fouled.
Brown had three rebounds the past three games.
"We'd been on him to rebound the ball because he's athletic and he's got strength, and he did a good job there getting to the ball," Huggins said.
Brown missed the free throw but Dominique Rutledge, who entered the game on the dead ball, dug out the offensive rebound. Brown banked in a jumper with 31 seconds left on the shot clock.
The Mountaineers had four points in one possession after scoring three points over 5:47 and eight possessions.
Marshall tried to score on an alley-oop, but Rutledge broke it up and got the steal. WVU nearly threw the ball away twice on its possession and the sequence ended with Rutledge driving and getting fouled.
A 28.6-percent shooter at the free-throw line, Rutledge went 1-for-2.
"Bonus," Huggins said.
The Herd tried another alley-oop that Brown stole and freshman Jabarie Hinds made a dazzling dribble drive and a layup to tie the score. After trading turnovers, Pitts made a 3.
"We got that lead and we tried a couple of alley-oops and didn't score and that happens, but the big thing was we didn't get stops," Pitts said. "We let them rebound off a missed free throw and then we couldn't get stops."
The Mountaineers worked the shot clock and Jones missed everything on a long 3 with 5.6 seconds left in the half, but Marshall threw the ball away on the inbound pass without anyone touching the ball. The clock didn't start and Huggins took out Rutledge, Brown and Gary Browne - all first-year players - for Truck Bryant, Keaton Miles and Kevin Noreen - starters.
"The guys I put back in I put back in because they know what they're doing," Huggins said. "I wanted to get a good shot. You can't get a better shot than what we got."
WVU started with the ball under its basket and ran a play on the right side with Bryant setting a screen for Miles, who flashed into the corner. There was nothing there, so Miles set a screen for Bryant and Hinds passed the ball into him. The clock started and a defender ran out at Bryant.
"I knew he going to jump," Bryant said. "That's what everyone does to me. I did the head fake and took my time and made it."
The score was tied and Bryant, who had started 0-for-5 and 1-for-8, had a little bounce as he ran to the locker room. He scored 14 of his 22 points in the second half, where the Mountaineers outscored Marshall 48-22 and made 16 of 26 shots.
"That was a key, not only for the team and for the coaching staff, but for me," Bryant said. "It was a huge momentum swing."
WVU's defense harassed Marshall into 40 percent shooting and just 3 makes in 11 3-point attempts after halftime. The lead grew to be as large as 19 points and was never below 10 points in the final 6:49.
The Herd's frustrations grew. Dennis Tinnon lost a defensive rebound out of bounds when he was surrounded by teammates and then spiked the ball off the ground. Hinds made a jumper at the end of that four-shot, 91-second possession, a key part of a 10-2 run that turned a one-point game into a nine-point WVU lead with 11:28 to go.
Later, Kane, who left the game briefly with a left ankle injury, promptly earned a technical foul after he returned.
"We played defense in the second half," Browne said. "They're talented, but they don't have the mental toughness that we have out there all week in practice and in the game every time we come out and play. All we have to do is run our stuff. We can't let other people make us do what they want us to do."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.