Marshall, WVU Ready For Capital City Classic

Although the coaches, and many fans, always would like to see the non-conference game in November or December (or even moved back to Morgantown and Huntington on a regular or semi-regular basis), once again the Mountaineers and Thundering Herd will descend on the Charleston Civic Center on January 25 for the annual Toyota Capital City Classic meeting of the men's and women's teams from Marshall University and West Virginia University in a green & white versus blue & gold sell-out crowd.

Close games are the norm in Charleston; the average margin of victory is only 6.78 in the last 15 games for the men, while the last three men's games have been four-point contests. The women's game last year was a six point win for Marshall and the average margin for a Herd win on the women's side has been an eight-point game.


Kashawna Curry battles for the Herd in last season's win over WVU's women's team. The Mountaineers played in the finals of the WNIT, while MU went on to win the Mid-American Conference East Division.

A sell-out crowd of 12,500-plus had been assured for over two weeks, the earliest sell-out in the Charleston Civic Center ever, for the annual meeting of the state's only Division I schools. Marshall scored its first-ever sweep in Charleston of both the men's and women's games last year, upsetting WVU teams that would run deep into the 2005 post-season. The Capital City Classic has been played regularly in Charleston since 1992, but the men's teams have met in Charleston 16 times in the series, 14 in a row since 1991-92 and MU is 3-13 in the men's series in the state capital.

The women have been much more successful in the Charleston Civic Center, winning six of the 14 games since 1991-92. The teams are 4-4 in the last eight games played, but WVU leads the all-time women's series 28-16, going back to the 1973-74 season. MU's then "Green Gals" won the first five games in the series. MU was 5-8 in games in Huntington, 3-9 in Morgantown and 8-11 on neutral courts, including meetings in the 1970s in the WV State Collegiate Tournament for women's basketball in the Mountain State.


Tre Whitted is 1-1 against the Mountaineers in the Captital City Classic and here battles Tyrone Sally in last year's MU win.

The Mountaineer men lead the all-time series with MU, which goes back to three WVU wins in Morgantown between 1928 and 1931. There have been 24 wins for West Virginia to nine for Marshall. The Herd was 5-0 in games played in the Henderson Center between 1981 and 1991, but the Herd won just once in 12 games in Morgantown, where eight of the first nine games were played.

Last year, the Marshall women won for the first time for head coach Royce Chadwick in four meetings with WVU since Chadwick took over in 2001-2002 at MU. The Herd won 82-76, behind MU Captial City Classic MVP Teyonka Hodge's 20 points. MU got 17 points from Reshundra Smiley and 14 more from Sikeetha Shepard-Hall, while Modupe Ishola chipped in 12 points and six rebounds. Crystal Champion had 11 rebounds and nine points and MU out-boarded the Mountaineer women 44-39.

WVU, who had a career-high of 36 points from Mountaineer MVP Meg Bulger in the Capital City Classic, and that team would go onto the finals of the Women's National Invitational Tournament under fourth-year head coach Mike Carey. WVU would post its second consecutive 20-win season, finishing 21-13, but losing at Southwest Missouri State in the finals of the Women's National Invitational Tournament, 78-70.

Marshall's women have enjoyed its first season in Conference USA, posting a 5-1 start, following a 67-63 loss at Southern Miss on Sunday. The Herd started the season with a "Jam The Cam" win over East Carolina and followed with a 75-64 win over C-USA pre-season No. 1 Rice, who won the WAC and advanced to the NCAA Tournament last year, on January 13 in Huntington. The Herd is 10-6 overall. The Herd has been led by seniors Shepard-Hall, who is now third in scoring all-time at MU with 1,376 points on 14 points per game this year; Smiley, who is averaging nine points per game; and New Cumberland, W.Va. native Mary Pat Statler, who had 16 points versus Rice and is now averaging over seven points per game, sharing the point guard position with Shepard-Hall and juco transfer Bridget Chacon', with Hodge leaving the team for personal reasons in December. Statler is questionable with a shoulder injury over the weekend, but will play if possible after missing games at UCF and USM. Jill Justice, from Lewisburg, and Curry, from Huntington, give the Herd three active state natives on the roster. Nitro's Meg Withrow is sitting out after transferring from UNC-Wilmington and freshman Chantelle Handy, a red-shirt for the Herd, played for Mount de Chantal as a prepster in Wheeling.

WVU women's team is off to a 10-6 start, 3-3 in the Big East abd have lost two in a row, falling at Villanova 75-59 and losing Saturday in Morgantown to Marquette, 80-75. 6-foot junior Meg Bulger is averaging 20.3 points per game for West Virginia, as well as 5.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game, one of three players averaging double-digits points for WVU. Olayinka Sanni is averaging 13.9 points per game and Chakhia Cole is averaging 10.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.


Mark Patton is engulfed by happy Marshall fans following the 2005 win over West Virginia, who ended the season in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

In the 2005 men's game, Marshall pulled an improbable 59-55 win over a West Virginia team that won its first 10 games of the 2004-05 season and was 11-1 entering the Capital City Classic. Marshall entered the game just 2-10, with wins at home over East Tennessee State and High Point, but having lost four in a row, including a 0-3 start in Mid-American Conference play, entering the game in Charleston. The Herd, however, did to WVU what the Mountaineers did to most of their opponents all the way to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament -- MU hit their three-point shots for the win, nailing 13-of-19 for the night. A.W. Hamilton had a career-high 17 points and fellow senior Ronny Dawn was 5-of-6 on his three-point shots for 15 points.

West Virginia would shoot only 3-of-19 from three, just 16 percent for a Mountaineer team that shot 36 percent for the season behind the arc. They were led by senior D'or Fischer, who had 20 points for West Virginia. WVU would lose four more in a row after the Marshall game, but recover for a 24-11 season and a deep run in the post-season which ended in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. That finish has led to this season's 12-3 start, winning 12 in a row (after a 2-3 start) again through Saturday.

The Mounataineers moved into the Top Ten for the first time since 1982 with a 60-56 win at UCLA this past weekend. WVU is number nine in the Associated Press poll, No. 13 in the ESPN/USA TODAY Coaches poll. So far this season, Martinsburg, W.Va. native Kevin Pittsnogle has led the Mountaineers with 21 points and six rebounds per game. Fellow senior Mike Gansey is adding 20 points per game and 5.5 rebounds and picked up the winning steal versus the Bruins at Pauley Pavilion Saturday. In a recent win, WVU set a school record by hitting 20-of-38 three-point shots in a 104-85 win over Marquette in Big East play.

Marshall finished 6-22 for 2004-05, the worst season at MU since a 4-20 season in 1964-64. The Herd has added six new players for 2005-06, and through this past Sunday were 7-9 to start the season, 1-3 in the first season in Conference USA. Marshall is being led by center Mark Patton, who is averaging 13.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game as Marshall's only in-state player (Barboursville) on the men's team. Juco forward Travis Aikens, who is averaging 11.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, and sophomore Joe Miles (11.3 points per game) are also in double figures, both coming off the bench for Marshall. Point guard Chris Ross, another junior college transfer, is averaging 5.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game and only committed two turnovers in 31 minutes against UTEP.

True freshman Markel Humphrey has averaged 8.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game since entering the starting lineup seven games ago and led the Herd with 14 points in Saturday's loss to UTEP, 53-51, on a last-second put-back by the Miners (4-0 in C-USA). The Herd is 4-5 over this recent stretch, with back-to-back road wins at Appalachian State and at UCF in the Herd's first-ever Conference USA game. The Herd has suffered close losses to No. 14 George Washington and Conference USA co-leader UAB (also 4-0 in league play) in the Henderson center, taking the Colonials to overtime. The Herd had also lost a poorly-played game at Tulsa last Wednesday. Marshall has won just six of 52 games with Top 25 teams since the first AP poll in 1948, but three have come since 1997 and the last was No. 24 WVU last year in Charleston.

The women's game will air on WRVC 930-AM, with the pre-game show starting at 5:00 p.m. WDGG 93.7-FM will join the game in progress at 7:00 p.m., then both stations will carry the men's game, scheduled to tip at 8:05 p.m. The Herd Insider will contain full coverage of both games and will go to press Thursday morning at the Charleston Daily Mail for printing. The new HI should be in the mail to Herd fans on Friday afternoon.


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