Capital Classic: WVU women top Herd
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Aesthetic qualities were few and far between in the West Virginia University women's basketball team's 64-48 win over Marshall at Tuesday night's Capital Classic.
Turnovers were plentiful. Baskets were not. But the Mountaineers (5-2) were able to grind out a victory while the Thundering Herd (4-4) lost two straight for the first time this season. WVU's Bria Holmes led all scorers with 15 points and teammate Crystal Leary recorded the game's only double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The Mountaineers extended what was a one-point lead with 8:36 left in the first half to double digits by halftime, and the Herd couldn't cut it to single digits again. WVU Coach Mike Carey got the victory, but said it didn't come with the energy he wanted, the energy he saw in the Mountaineers' Sunday win over Virginia.
"We've got to get off this roller coaster," Carey said. "I told them I was embarrassed with our energy. We've got a long way to go. A long way to go."
Marshall Coach Matt Daniel wasn't happy, either. He felt things were coming together for his young team - only two seniors are on the roster - but wasn't satisfied with a loss.
"They're certainly more talented than we are right now," Daniel said. "But we're working diligently to put ourselves in a situation where we're able to compete night in and night out with people of that level every night."
Both teams struggled shooting. WVU made 24 of 68 shots from the floor (35.3 percent) and five of 21 from 3-point range (23.8 percent). As tough a night as Marshall had, going 19 for 55 from the floor (34.5 percent) and five for 16 from 3-point range (31.3 percent), the Herd's free throw shooting was worse. Marshall made just five of 17 from the line.
Fortunes swung wildly for the two teams in the first half. WVU began the game with a flurry, scoring the first eight points and sprinting out to a 14-2 lead behind Ayana Dunning's six points from the low post. But then it was Marshall's turn to get hot.
The Herd turned what looked like a burgeoning blowout into a nailbiter. Marshall's defense buckled down and Veronica Ruiz led a spirited comeback. The Herd went on a 15-4 run, led by Ruiz's six points, and Leandra King's layup with 8:36 left in the half cut WVU's lead to 18-17.
The pendulum swung the Mountaineers' way again in the half's final minutes. Holmes scored eight of her 13 first half points in the last two minutes before intermission and WVU went into halftime with a 35-23 lead.
"A lot of my shots were falling tonight," Holmes said. "I just tried my best to play basketball."
Marshall didn't help itself in terms of ball security, committing 15 first-half turnovers. Marshall finished with a season-high 26 turnovers and WVU turned those into 33 points. Fatigue might have been a factor, as Marshall played an eight-person rotation, while WVU went with 12.
"It's nothing new," Daniel said of the turnovers. "It's just going to be an issue. You're going to have kids that have it and kids that don't. And that's where depth comes in to where you can make those adjustments."
King, who was named Marshall's top player of the game as Holmes was named WVU's, finished with 10 points and six rebounds off the bench. Norrisha Victrum scored nine points for Marshall, while Shay Weaver scored eight.
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.