Capital Classic: Point guard matchup lives up to hype
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Capital Classic's showdown between two marquee point guards didn't disappoint.
West Virginia's Juwan Staten and Marshall's Kareem Canty put their respective teams on their backs Saturday night, and while both the Mountaineers' junior and the Thundering Herd's freshman played well, it was Staten's WVU team that surged past Marshall in the final minutes to win, 74-64.
The two entered the contest as just one of four players in Division I averaging at least 16.0 points and 6.5 assists. Yet Staten admitted he didn't know much about Canty before preparing for Saturday's game. Once he popped in the film on his adversary, he realized he had to get familiar fast.
"After watching film I learned quickly he could play," Staten said. "He was a great player. I love playing against great players because I feel like that brings the best out of me."
Canty eclipsed Staten in the assists department, recording nine to Staten's four, while committing just four turnovers to Staten's five. Canty also added three steals. But Staten outscored Canty 19-16. Staten shot 6-for-14 from the floor to Canty's 6-for-14 and made 7 of 10 free throws, while Canty made all three of his.
Both players said it was a competitive and feisty one-on-one match-up, but that didn't stop them from showing respect to each other when one got the upper hand.
"We were talking trash to each other, but we were congratulating each other on certain moves that we'd make," Canty said. "It was just really fun to play against each other like that."
In the game's final six minutes, when West Virginia made its run from four points down to 10 points ahead, Staten excelled while Canty faded. In that span, Staten scored six points with two assists and two rebounds. Canty scored two points with one assist.
"Every player that thinks highly of himself, that's that player's dream, to be in a tough game, playing against another tough player and have the team on your back," Staten said. "You can't ask for really more than that."
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Fourth-year Marshall Coach Tom Herrion fell to 1-3 in the Capital Classic, although the Herd did not trail for the first 36 minutes and 19 seconds.
"Obviously that's a crying shame for our kids," Herrion said after the double-digit loss. "Crying shame. Played so damn hard, but we beat ourselves."
West Virginia holds a 31-11 lead in the series with Marshall, including a 20-5 edge in Charleston. The Mountaineers have won six of seven games in the series overall.
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WVU junior guard Gary Browne was perfect from the floor versus the Herd, 5-for-5 from the floor, including 2-for-2 from 3-point range. He was one of five West Virginia's double-figure scorers, finishing with 12.
He said he worked throughout the offseason to improve as a shooter, and it's shown. After shooting 32.5 percent from the floor and 20.4 percent from 3-point range last season, he's shooting 53.8 percent from the floor and 47.8 percent from 3-point range this year.
The key, he said, was taking the shots that the defense gave him, not the ones that he just felt like taking.
"I don't need to force shots," he said. "I want to win the game. People don't remember, 'Y'all lost, but Gary Browne had 50 points.' Nobody cares about that. Everybody cares about the win."
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Charleston native and former George Washington High School standout TyQuane Goard looked at home on the Civic Center Court. The 6-foot-7 sophomore, who played the 2011-12 season at Ohio before transferring to Marshall and sitting out last season, had the first double-digit point game of his career.
Goard scored 11 points and matched his career-high with seven rebounds in 25 minutes. He had six points and all seven of his rebounds in a first half where the Thundering Herd never trailed.
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The Capital Classic attendance declined for the third consecutive year.
The annual event drew 11,038 Saturday night, the smallest turnout for a WVU-MU basketball game since Jan. 27, 1999 (9,132).
The game drew 12,684 fans on Jan. 18, 2012. The Classic was moved to December last month, and attendance dropped to 11,512. This season, the game stayed in December but moved from its usual weekday slot to the weekend. It is the first time since 1996 -- Jan. 18 of one season and Dec. 17 of the next -- that the attendance fell below 12,000 in consecutive seasons.