Marshall, WVU In Capital Classic Tonight

It comes every January, much to the chagrin of coaches in the middle of the important conference games, more for the fans, who get as excited about a non-conference game as for a game to get to the NCAA Tournament. Every January, some or many media pundits will complain the game should rotate between home venues and Charleston, but is is now 17 years since either team played at home. It is here.

It is the Chesapeake Energy Capital Classic at the Charleston W.Va.) Civic Center, pitting the state's two Division I schools, Marshall University and West Virginia University, in a doubleheader of women's and men's basketball. For the first time in some time, all four teams come into tonight's action with winning records, but it wouldn't matter to the fans if both sides were Zero-for-this year if they can grab state bragging rights for another year. Marshall's men's won two of the past three under former head coach Ron Jirsa, but there's not only a new coach for the Thundering Herd men's team but for the Mountaineers as well and both bring state ties and school ties to the game.

Donnie Jones, a Point Pleasant, W.Va. native on the MU bench as an assistant in the 1990-96 era for two wins in six tries by the Herd by the Herd under former head coaches Dwight Freeman and Billy Donovan. Jones Herd is 10-6, 2-2 in Conference USA. On the other side, Bobby Huggins is from Morgantown, played at WVU and will also be the Head Coach for the first time in this match-up, the first time both head coaches were in-state natives since Greg White matched up with Gale Catlett. West Virginia is 14-4 to start the season, 4-2 in the Big East, and has been ranked in the top 25 this year and is near to being back in. This game can be heard on WRVC 930 AM, ESPN for the Tri-State and WDGG 93.7 FM, The Dawg, on the Thundering Herd/ISP Sports Network, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Both teams have big conference games coming up this weekend, as Marshall will travel to 13-3, 2-0 Houston while WVU will face No. 6 Georgetown. Both teams also have a big injury, as the Herd's Markel Humphrey (14.2 points per game, 5,8 rebounds per game) is out and questionable for the game with a hairline fracture in his heel that caused him to miss Saturday's win over UAB, 62-57. Meanwhile, the Mountaineer's Joe Alexander (15.8, 5.9) missed the last WVU game, a 69-52 win at South Florida, has a groin injury and is also a question mark. Both coaches are preparing as if the other's star will play.

Marshall's leading scorer behind Humphrey is senior guard Mark Dorris (13.4), while the leader on the boards is freshman forward Tirrell Baines (6.7) while also scoring 11.9 points per game. Sophomore forward Tyler Wilkerson, 6-foot-8 and 240-pounds, may be in the lineup to replace Humphrey coming off 11 points and nine rebounds in the UAB win. In double figures for WVU is junior Alex Ruoff (16.1) and the leading rebounder is Da'Sean Butler (5.7) who also is in double figures with 12.9 points per game. Seniro Darris Nichols adds 11.1 points per game, while sophomore Joe Mazzulla scored 11 points in the USF win.

On the women's side, WVU (14-3, 3-1 Big East) has won two in a row in the series and five of six against Marshall's Royce Chadwick. The Herd (11-7, 3-2 C-USA) is led by the guards, with junior Casey Baker scoring 12.7 points per game and senior Kizzy Hart scoring 14.1. Freshman center Tynikki Crook had a double-double Sunday in the loss to SMU (13-12), and averages 5.6 rebounds to lead the team along with 8.8 points per contest. For the No. 12-ranked Mountaineers, four of five starters are in double figures: senior center Yinka Sanni averages 17.6, senior Meg Bulger averages 13.8, senior Chakhia Cole averages 10.4 and senior LaQuita Owens averages 11.9. The leading rebounder is is Sanni at 7.6 per game.

WVU leads the men's all-time series, which began with three games between 1928-31 before being resumed in 1977-78, 25-10 and leads the Herd in Charleston 12-4 since the Capital Classic became an annual event in Charleston in 1992. The Mountaineers are 14-4 in all games in Charleston, with two games played in the the former Huntington-Morgantown-Charleston rotation. MU was 1-11 in Morgantown while WVU was 0-for the Henderson Center in five tries. On the women's side, Marshall won the first five meetings beginning in 1973-74 but West Virginia now holds an overall 30-16 lead. WVU is 11-6 against MU at Charleston in the Capital Classic, while holding a 3-7 edge in Huntington and 16-3 edge in Morgantown.

Jones and Huggins are both in-state natives, as are Marshall assistants Shawn Finney (Mullens) and Brett Nelson (St. Albans). Players from the state include Marshall's Adam Williams (St. Albans) and Bruce Senior (Huntington) and West Virginia's Josh Sowards (Hurricane), Cameron Payne (Charleston/George Washington HS) and Ted Talkington (New Martinsville/Magnolia HS). On the women's side, head coach Mike Carey is from Clarksburg while Marshall junior Meg Withrow is from Nitro, although sophomore forward Chantelle Handy (originally from Durham, England) played high school basketball at Mount de Chantal in Wheeling, W.Va.

The Dawg, 93.7 FM, will be live from the lobby of the Charleston Civic Center from 4-6 p.m. with the afternoon drive and "The Crawdawg," Jeff Crawford. The show then moves into the South Hall of the Charleston Civic Center for the Marshall Alumni gathering and Crawdawg will be joined by Woody Woodrum of the Thundering Herd/ISP Sports Network for a pre-game show and party, with many guests from Marshall and the state. At 4 p.m. on WRVC 930 AM, Jason Toy, Eliot Parker and Luke Beach fire up the Insider Sportsline show in Huntington, right at courtside. They stay right there for the call of the women's game, tipping at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN 930 AM in Huntington, for the Marshall call, and ESPN 1490 in Charleston, for the West Virginia call. The women's and men's games are sold out, and can be seen on CSTV/WV Public Broadcasting for the women, including WPBY in Huntington-Charleson, and on the Capital Classic Network for the men, including WOWK-TV in Charleston-Huntington.

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