Capital Classic: WVU outlasts Marshall in physical game
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After a one-year hiatus, the Capital Classic got back to its old, physical self on Wednesday night.
The West Virginia men's basketball team emerged from the smoke to beat Marshall 69-59 in a 40-minute brawl.
It featured 45 fouls, including five technical fouls, and a fracas near the end that led to five players - four Mountaineers and one member of the Herd - getting ejected.
The game's physical nature was no surprise to WVU senior forward Deniz Kilicli.
"It's every Capital Classic," said Kilicli, who was named West Virginia's player of the game following his 21-point performance.
Things reached a boiling point with 1:37 left and WVU (3-3) holding a 61-54 lead.
Kilicli had just scored on a layup and Marshall forward Robert Goff and WVU's Juwan Staten got tangled up under the basket. That tussle heated up and four Mountaineers left the bench and came toward the fray.
Once the two teams were separated and the officials took several minutes to sort things out, Goff was tagged with a flagrant foul and ejected, while Aaric Murray, Terry Henderson, Jabarie Hinds and Eron Harris were sent to the locker room for leaving the bench.
"As soon as you cross the line, you're out," Kilicli said. "A lot of guys didn't know. We shouldn't get into that."
The four WVU players shouldn't face any further disciplinary action, since they were ejected for leaving the bench and not for fighting. Marshall Coach Tom Herrion said he wasn't sure whether Goff would face further discipline for his ejection.
The scrum energized the 11,512 in attendance, but it couldn't spark Marshall (5-4) to close the gap.
The Herd couldn't get closer than seven points to WVU for the rest of the game.
It wasn't the 64 fouls of two seasons ago, but there was plenty of bumps and bruises Wednesday night. In the end, Marshall forward Elijah Pittman said, the Mountaineers fared better in those conditions.
"They were playing more physical and we were just fouling a lot," Pittman said. "Instead of playing solid defense, we were doing a lot of reaching, a lot of pulling and a lot of grabbing. They just capitalized on that."
WVU also capitalized on 17 Marshall turnovers, including 13 in the first half, and the Herd's dormant offense.
Marshall shot just 36.5 percent from the floor and made just 12 of 22 free throws. Meanwhile, WVU made 24 of 30 from the line.
The Mountaineers said their 1-3-1 defense flustered the Thundering Herd and allowed them to take and keep control of the game.
"I was getting a lot of advice from the bench that we needed to change defenses," WVU Coach Bob Huggins said. "It was just a chance to give them a different look. People get into rhythm and you've got to try to get them out of rhythm."
The Thundering Herd began the game with a hot hand it hadn't seen in the two previous games. Marshall hit three of its first four shots and took a 12-5 lead. The Mountaineers began to inch back into the game, then blew past the Herd in the final 4 minutes.
WVU's defense began to frustrate Marshall as the turnovers piled up. West Virginia finished the first half on a 12-1 run.
The only thing that went wrong for the Mountaineers in that span was Keaton Miles' dunk as time ran out came just a fraction of a second after the buzzer, and WVU took a 31-25 lead into halftime.
Marshall's offensive ability to start the game disappeared by halftime. After starting 3-of-4, the Herd hit just six of its next 19 shots and went the final 5:01 of the first half without scoring a basket.
"We got shook," Herrion said. "We knew they were going to pressure us. We turned it over every which way possible."
Marshall cut the lead to 31-30 on Pittman's 3-pointer with 17:40 left in the game, but the Herd suffered another drought, going from the 13:14 mark to the 7:14 mark without hitting a shot from the floor.
D.D. Scarver led Marshall with 17 points, while Pittman added 16 and DeAndre Kane, named Marshall's player of the game, scored 13 w
ith a game-high seven assists. Staten added 12 points for WVU and Murray pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds and scored seven points.
The Mountaineers begin a tough streak in their schedule Saturday when they host Virginia Tech, visit Duquesne on Dec. 11, then play No. 3 Michigan in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Dec. 15.
The Herd hosts Coppin State on Saturday, before returning to the Civic Center to play Cincinnati on Dec. 15.
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.