GAME NOTES: An early season, instate showdown is set as the Marshall Thundering Herd and West Virginia Mountaineers meet in the state capital at the Charleston Civic Center on Wednesday.
The Thundering Herd are storming into Charleston on a three-game winning streak after their narrow 61-58 decision over UNC Wilmington on Saturday. Marshall got off to a 2-3 start which included losses to South Dakota State, Villanova, and Hofstra, but it bounced back with close wins over Nevada and Morehead State in the friendly environment of the Cam Henderson Center. Coach Tom Herrion has some firepower on his roster as the Herd are scoring 78.2 ppg, but they are giving up 71.6 ppg.
Bob Huggins is having one of his toughest seasons since taking over at WVU. The Mountaineers enter with a 2-3 mark after a 94-69 triumph over VMI last Wednesday. Prior to that win, WVU opened up its season with an 84-50 loss at Gonzaga. It then went to Lake Buena Vista, Florida for the Old Spice Classic, where it defeated Marist (87-44) but suffered setbacks to Davidson (63-60) and Oklahoma (77-70). The Mountaineers are still outscoring their opposition by 4.8 ppg despite their losing record.
WVU leads the all-time series with Marshall, 29-11. The teams have met every season, at least once, since 1977-78 -- but the Herd have won only three of the last eight. Although the Mountaineers cruised to a 78-62 win in last season's encounter, the games between these West Virginia state rivals is usually hard-fought and close on the scoreboard until the very end.
Marshall scored only 61 points its last time out as UNCW held it to 36.4 percent shooting from the field. The Herd also struggled at the charity stripe, converting only 16-of-26 attempts. Thanks to the work of Nigel Spikes (13 rebounds) and Dennis Tinnon (12 rebounds), MU held a 39-30 edge in the rebounding battle which turned out to be the difference. DeAndre Kane struggled from the floor (5-of-18 FG), but finished with a team-high 16 points and five assists. Elijah Pittman added 13 points in the win. Kane paces the team with 16 ppg, while Pittman (14 ppg), D.D. Scarver (13.9), and Tinnon (11.9) are all owners of double-digit scoring averages. Tinnon and Spikes both grab more than nine rebounds per contest as well.
The Mountaineers played much better last time out versus VMI. West Virginia shot 50 percent in the first half and finished the game 37-of-82 for 45.1 percent. However, the Mountaineers once again struggled from 3 hitting only-3- of-19 attempts from deep. Juwan Staten led the team with 18 points while Deniz Kilicli and Aaric Murray (13) and Terry Henderson (10) also hit double- figures. Staten paces the team with 10.8 ppg. Murray, a transfer from La Salle, is second in scoring (10.2 ppg) and is the leader on the boards with seven rebounds per contest.
WVU has held the upper hand in this rivalry recently, but the surging Herd are going to be tough to fend off this season. Murray will really need to prove he is Big East material against Marshall's twin tower combination of Tinnon and Spikes. Kane will end his slump with a big performance to push Marshall past WVU.
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