It was a Tuesday night not to be soon forgotten for Marshall fans, featuring late-game heroics by Reshundra Smiley and Teyonka Hodge for the women, and a barrage of Ronny Dawn threes for the men.
Marshall 82, WVU 76 (women)
In the opening women's game, Marshall had to climb back in the second half after taking a 43-38 halftime lead over WVU. Reshundra Smiley and Teyonka Hodge proved a solid one-two punch that kept the Mountaineers at bay during the final two minutes, earning the 82-76 win.
"I'm looking for [Marshall football coach] Bob Pruett, because he told me once that I couldn't be a West Virginian until I won this game," Marshall women's coach Royce Chadwick laughed afterwards. "I'm a West Virginian now."
WVU's Meg Bulger tied the game for the seventh time of the half, 69-69, on a three-point shot with 2:45 remaining. Marshall's Reshundra Smiley took control of the game at this point, and Teyonka Hodge polished off the Mountaineers at the free throw line.
Marshall forward KaShawna Curry battled WVU's Chakhia Cole for a loose ball.
Smiley took the game over on two subsequent possessions after Bulger's tying three. WVU's Kate Glusko had no recourse but to foul the streaking Smiley as she drove to the lane, hitting the basket and subsequent free throw. That gave Marshall the go-ahead lead at 72-69 with 2:21 left.
"It was time for me to take it to the hoop and get them in foul trouble, which is what I did" said MU's Reshundra Smiley. "I feel like we're now starting to play as a team."
Smiley did the same to WVU's Sherell Sowho with just :56 remaining, streaking by WVU's guard and hitting the basket and free throw for the 77-73 lead. Teammate Teyonka Hodge put the nails in the Mountaineers' coffin after that, hitting five free throws down the stretch, including two for a technical foul on the WVU bench.
"We kept going to basket, making big plays," said Teyonka Hodge. "The shooters came through, and we wanted to keep pressuring the ball and going to the basket."
Marshall placed four players in double figures, with guard Teyonka Hodge leading the way with 20 points. Reshundra Smiley scored 17, while Sikeetha Shepard-Hall added 14 and Modupe Ishola scored 12. WVU's Meg Bulger lead all scorers with 36 points in the losing effort.
Four WVU players fouled out in the final 1:30 of the game, including starters Sherrell Sowho, Meg Bulger, and Yolanda Paige.
Marshall shot 44.1% from the field (26-of-59), and 23.8% from three (5-of-21). WVU mustered a 44.1% effort from the field (28-of-65), but hit just 4-of-12 threes (33.3%).
"If you want to win basketball games, you've got to have answers. And we were fortunate enough to have some answers," summed up a smiling MU coach Chadwick.
"We have struggled and worked a lot of young kids a lot of minutes to get them to this point."
Marshall 59, WVU 55 (men)
The rut is now officially over for Marshal coach Ron Jirsa. Coming in to the WVU game, the Marshall men's team was lugging around a piddling 2-10 record, and guard Ronny Dawn was in a three-game shooting slump.
That all ended on Tuesday night in front of a packed house of 12,380 at the Charleston Civic Center, as Marshall completed the sweep of WVU with a 59-55 win over the #24-ranked Mountaineers. A.W. Hamilton and Ronny Dawn each hit 5-of-6 three-pointers to gun down the Mountaineers in the annual rivalry game of West Virginia's only two Division I universities.
"The last couple games, we've given it away at the end. We weren't going to do that tonight," said MU guard Ronny Dawn. "We wanted this one bad. "
WVU's D'or Fischer ruled the first half of the game, scoring 12 points as the Mountaineers took a slim 26-24 lead at halftime. Marshall shot a lackluster 35.7% from the field (10-of-28), but out-rebounded the Mountaineers to keep the game close.
"Coach said we needed to make them play harder, and force them into taking harder shots," Marshall forward Mark Patton said of MU's halftime adjustments.
Mark Patton rejected this shot by WVU's D'or Fischer in the second half.
The second half proved just the opposite of the first half, as the Thundering Herd's Mark Patton lead a solid defensive effort against WVU's Fischer. This in turn opened up the hot-shooting Ronny Dawn, and Dawn snapped his recent shooting slump by draining 4-of-5 threes.
"He steps up in big games, like last year at Kentucky, and hits big threes," said MU's Patton of Dawn's shooting.
WVU shot out to a 39-31 lead early in the first half, but Marshall countered with an 11-0 run over a two-minute span, capped by A.W. Hamilton's three with 11:29 left. This gave The Herd a 42-39 lead.
Dawn did the most damage over a :46 span, beginning with 4:07 left, hitting two three-pointers that tied the game at 48-48, then gave MU the lead for good at 51-48.
"Coach told us yesterday to be aggressive," said Ronny Dawn. "There were guys diving on the floor, getting shots, and we needed to do that for 40 minutes."
WVU's Tyrone Sally nailed a layup with 1:00 left to tie the game one final time, but Dawn had the answer for that. Marshall coach Jirsa called timeout, and Dawn took the pass from David Anderson and drained his fifth three from the top of the key for the final go-ahead bucket of the game.
Hamilton and Enoch Bunch hit two free throws apiece to seal the 82-76 win that sent the Charleston Civic Center crowd into both shock (WVU) and euphoria (Marshall), with MU fans taking the floor and surrounding the team as the buzzer sounded.
"I've never seen anything like that," added Mark Patton of the post-game celebration at mid-court. "I loved it."
Marshall shot 36.5% for the game (19-of-52), but was red hot via Dawn's and Hamilton's three-point prowess. The Herd hit 44.8% from three (13-of-29), and the result was Hamilton's 17 points, and Dawn's 15 points (all via threes). Mark Patton only scored four points, but did haul in 10 rebounds in the battle with the Mountaineers' D'or Fischer.
MU is now just 3-10 overall, while the #24 Mountaineers' record was tarnished to a still-stellar 11-2 overall. Marshall re-enters MAC play on Saturday evening at the Henderson Center in Huntington, hosting the Toledo Rockets at 7:30pm.
"We knew this was going to be a tough game, and we knew we had to play well to beat them," MU coach Ron Jirsa summed up. "They're more physical, more talented [than we are]."
But in the end, for Jirsa it all came down to breaking his team's losing streak in grand fashion: on the floor in the Charleston Civic Center, against in-state rival WVU, in the biggest game of the season for both teams that actually means little other than bragging rights.
Which Jirsa, Chadwick and company now own. At least for the next 364 days.
Jirsa took a look around the corridor at the Civic Center with all the media hubbub, and summed it all up.
"A win is sweet, and this one is even sweeter."