It was a first-ever back-to-back win for the Herd at the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum. Marshall had not won back-to-back games over the Mountaineers since 1980-81, when the Herd got its first win in Morgantown, 76-73 in overtime and then won the 1981-82 game in Huntington by the score of 91-78. It was also the first Marshall win over a team in the Top Ten of the Associated Press poll since the Herd beat No. 8 St. John's 110-107 in double-overtime at the Veteran's Memorial Field House in Huntington on December 18, 1971.
Pittsnogle had guaranteed a win for West Virginia (14-4), but the Mountaineers were held to a season low for points. Still, Pittsnogle didn't apologize for his prediction. "I'm still glad I said it," he said. "There's nothing wrong with what I said. I think it was just more like confidence." Pittsnogle was the WVU MVP of the game with 20 points, but hit just 7-of-18 shots, including 2-for-8 from the three-point line. In four games with Marshall (8-9) in the Charleston Civic Center, Pittsnogle (a career 47 percent field goal and 42 percent three-point shooter) hit just 15-of-44 shots, 34 percent, and was only 5-for-21 from behind the arc (24 percent) in four games in the series.
Mark Patton drove against WVU's Kevin Pittsnogle.photo by Matt Riley for Herd Insider
Patton, who was the MU MVP and battled Pittsnogle as seniors at Cabell Midland and Martinsburg, respectively, and then played on the same AAU team in the Mountain State, was 8-for-18 shooting, after starting the game 0-for-4, and recorded his 11th career double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. He and Lavar Carter are the first four-year seniors to win their final two games versus WVU since Gary Hines, Larry Watson and George Washington were seniors in 1982.
"After a guarantee like that, it's a good thing we showed up tonight," Patton said. "This is how it is every year in Charleston. It is always back and forth like that. I am just so proud of our team for the way we came out and played tonight. That's why we play the game. We had to believe and play as hard as we could. I have to credit my teammates, they played a great game. It's all about team play tonight."
Patton had scoring help from both Tre Whitted, who was not expected to start or even play very much due to a foot injury, and Joe Miles off the bench. "Adenalin is a real pain killer," said Whitted after the game. Whitted hit his first three and connected on 3-of-5 from downtown for 11 points in 30 minutes. Miles also hit 3-for-5 behind the arc and added 13 points on the night. The story of the night, however, was defense as Marshall held WVU to 5-of-29 from three, just 17 percent, and an overall shooting percentage of just 35 percent (18-52). WVU hit only 16 percent from three last year on 3-of-19 shooting.
"It was almost déjà vu again," said West Virginia coach John Beilein. "We just could not shoot the ball. We shoot 17 percent from three and we're not going to win a whole lot of games doing that. We didn't create enough turnovers and they did a great job with the zone," said Beilein. "They made some tough shots – maybe four shot-clock shots – and we did not. They played a great game and they're getting better every day. I thought they just played excellent defense on us," Beilein said. "We did all of the things we wanted to do to get open shots and they just didn't go in."
"They came out with more intensity," West Virginia's Mike Gansey said following the game of the Herd. Marshall took the early lead in the game, and then grabbed the lead for good with 7:19 to play in the first half on a Patton jumper that made the score 15-14. WVU would never lead again and would tie the game just one more time late in the second half. Gansey also struggled for the second-consecutive year against Marshall, shooting just 3-for-12 and 1-for-8 from three, scoring 10 points.
Patton held up two fingers signifying Marshall's second-consecutive win over West Virginia. Chris Ross (right) also celebrated.photo by Matt Riley for Herd Insider
Ron Jirsa saw the game play out perfectly for his second consecutive win over WVU. "We were able to hold the ball, run our offense and create baskets," said Jirsa following the win. "It was a tremendous game for our team and an opportunity for our program to step up. We were fortunate to win and, as a team, we needed a win." Jirsa joins Bob Zuffelato as the only Herd coaches to win back-to-back games in the men's series for MU against WVU. He joins Carl Tacy as the only Marshall coaches to knock off a Top Ten opponent.
Marshall had lost three games in a row in Conference USA, after opening with a win at UCF, and the Herd had dropped four of its last five games. That group included an overtime loss to No. 14 George Washington and league losses to UAB (who was at No. 28 last week in the Coach's poll) and UTEP, who are both undefeated in C-USA play.
A key point for the Herd might have been midway through the second half when West Virginia cut the Marshall lead to 37-36 with 11:17 to play. It appeared WVU's defense was just about to create a MU turnover for a shot-clock violation when Whitted nailed a 25-foot three-point shot with no time on the shot clock to put the Herd back up by two possessions, 40-36. "That was Ronny Dawn-like, wasn't it," said Whitted after the game, remembering his teammate from last season who hit 5-of-6 threes from deep behind the arc to beat then No. 24 (in the Coach's poll) WVU in last year's game, 59-55. The Mountaineers are No. 13 in the current ESPN/USA Today Coach's poll.
Marshall would hit 6-for-6 at the free-throw line in the final seconds to hold on for the win. Chris Ross, the MU point guard and a 57 percent free-throw shooter, put MU in fron 54-50 with 24 seconds to play; then Whitted, a 50 percent free-throw shooter, picked up a steal from Gansey and hit both of his shots at the line to give MU a 56-50 lead with 17 seconds to play. J.D. Collins hit an uncontested layup with 11 seconds to play and Miles was fouled on the inbounds play. His two free-throws with 10 seconds to play would set the final at 58-52, as WVU missed two more three-point shots in the final four seconds of the game. By then, many of the blue and gold clad Mountaineer fans, who out-numbered green and white Marshall fans about five-to-one, were well on their way out the Civic Center and into the cold, snowy night in Charleston.
Marshall will travel on Saturday to Houston for an 8:00 p.m. Eastern tip with the Cougars in Conference USA. West Virginia, who had won 12 in a row since starting the season 2-3, will travel to St. John's on Sunday to get back into Big East play. C-USA is 4-5 in games with the Big East this season and 7-7 versus top 25 teams as a league (MU is 1-1 vs. ranked opponents this year, 7-52 since the AP poll debut in 1948).