Dec. 6, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
CHARLESTON – The Charleston Civic Center scoreboard said West Virginia beat Marshall for the 30th time in 41 men’s basketball games.
Thundering Herd Coach Tom Herrion wasn’t sure that was accurate.
“I’m not sure West Virginia beat us tonight,” Herrion said of Marshall’s 69-59 Capital Classic loss to WVU (3-3) on Wednesday night. “We helped. We contributed mightily to the loss ourselves, and I don’t mean that in any disrespect to them.”
A crowd of 11,512 – that’s 818 short of capacity and the first Capital Classic that didn’t sell out since 9,132 attended in 1999 – saw what Herrion kindly labeled “a unique game” due to the way it finished.
In a game that deteriorated past chippiness that brought five technical fouls -- including five ejections in an altercation with 1:37 to go -- some of the same problems that plagued the Herd (5-4) in recent wins over Morehead State and UNC Wilmington cost Herrion’s club this time.
Marshall shot only a .365 percentage from the field. It made 9-of-20 from behind the 3-point arc, but only 10-of-32 from closer range. And the free throw line continued to confound the Herd on a 12-of-22 night.
Marshall led 15-9 when it lost forward Elijah Pittman to a knee strain for the final 9:24 of the first half. It wasn’t long after that when the Mountaineers went to a 1-3-1 zone trap that turned over the Herd time and again.
In the final 7:20 of the half, Coach Bob Huggins’ team outscored the Herd 18-6.
“That stretch cost us the game,” Herrion said, “because we couldn’t make free throws.”
MU came into the Capital Classic averaging 13.8 turnovers per game. The Herd had 13 in the first half against WVU.
“Thirteen turnovers in the first half, and when you’re playing behind in the second half you can’t have empty possessions, you go to the foul line you have to convert,” Herrion said. “We didn’t finish around the basket in the second half, get outrebounded by eight (43-35) and that usually leads to failure.”
That rebounding advantage came at crunch time, too. With 7:20 to play, the Mountaineers had only a 30-29 edge on the boards. However, WVU outscored the Herd 36-18 in the paint and 12-2 on second-chance points. And those two were free throws for MU … no hoops.
“We missed baskets at point blank (range),” Herrion said. “We missed open threes. Our shot selection wasn’t atrocious. We had good looks. We just couldn’t make baskets inside, couldn’t make free throws.”
Pittman returned for the second half and finished with 16 points, one fewer than guard D.D. Scarver, who led the Herd. Center Deniz Kilicli led the Mountaineers with 21 points, and WVU’s other post presence, Aaric Murray, had 10 rebounds.
It was a tough night inside, indeed, for the Herd. Senior forward Dennis Tinnon went an unheard-of 0-for-4, and he and Nigel Spikes, Robert Goff and Jamir Hanner were a combined 2-of-11.
Marshall also didn’t have an individual double-figure rebounder for the first time in the last seven games.
DeAndre Kane had 13 points for Marshall, but his seven assists were offset by five turnovers and WVU’s defense made it difficult for Kane with the halfcourt trapping pressure.
“We got shook. We knew they were going to pressure us,” said Herrion, whose team had only four second-half turnovers after those 13 at the break. “We turned it over every which way possible. We talked about playing low, playing strong with the ball, but we got shook and sped up. It was clearly a bad way to go through that stretch near the end of the first half. We had a lot of guys contribute to it … a lot.”
But maybe not enough guys. Herrion again got little from his bench besides minutes, as was the case last weekend in the squeaker past UNCW. The Herd reserves combined for 2 points (a Hanner field goal), went 1-for-8 with 7 rebounds, 8 fouls, 1 assist and 1 turnover in 45 minutes.
WVU, which entered the game hitting 68.5 percent at the free throw line, went 24-for-30, and made 16 straight as part of that. Kilicli, a 41-percent marksman at the stripe coming into the Civic Center, went 7-of-8.
Goff was ejected for his part in the altercation, along with four WVU players who left the bench area. The officiating crew of Mike Stuart, Duke Edsall and Bryan Kersey spent several minutes sorting out what happened with the help of a telecast monitor, but apparently no punches were thrown.
“Our halfcourt defense, I thought, was pretty good (WVU shot only 37.3 percent), except when we were putting them at the free throw line,” Herrion said.
The Herd next plays host to Coppin State (1-7) on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Henderson Center, and makes a return to Charleston the following Saturday (Dec. 15) for a 2 p.m. tipoff against nationally ranked current No. 11 Cincinnati. The Herd is 7-22 all-time at the Civic Center.
“We’ll get better from this game, we will move forward,” Herrion said. “It’s Dec. 5th. I’m just disappointed.”