The Herd does not have leading scorer Markel Humphrey, out for an indefinite period with a hairline fracture in his heel, or point guard Taurean Marshall, out for the rest of the season possibly with another knee injury. In addition, in the final five and one-half minutes, the Herd would lose three key players to foul trouble: Mark Dorris, with 20 points and 10 rebounds, gone with 5:37 to play; Tyler Wilkerson, with two points, two blocks and two rebounds, out with 3:53 left; and Tirrell Baines, out with :53 seconds, scored five points and grabbed seven rebounds and a steal, as the officials called 28 fouls on the Herd and 52 overall.
Despite all the shortcomings, Donnie Jones may have done his best coaching job to date as the first-year head coach at Marshall. The Herd rallied behind junior guard Darryl Merthie, who scored ten of his 20 points in the final eight minutes, including three-for-three at the line with :31 to play to tie the game at 64-64. During that time, Marshall cut a West Virginia lead that stayed at 10-to-12 points for the final six minutes of the first half, was 37-27 at half and was 57-47 with 8:02 to play to five points at 6:51 with two free throws and a three by Merthie.
Mark Dorris drove past WVU's Alex Ruoff in the second half. Dorris rang up a double-double against West Virginia, hitting for 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
WVU (15-4, 4-2 in the Big East) was its own worst enemy, making only 5-of-16 free throws over the final eight minutes and shooting just 39.3 percent from the line for the night (11-for-28). In addition, the Mountaineers had only two field goals in that final eight minutes of the game: Wellington Smith's 15-footer at 6:29, then Da'Sean Butler's game-winning, ten-foot jumper with 05.6 seconds left and MU's Adam Williams in his face defensively.
"It was a good game," Marshall head coach Donnie Jones said of his first MU-WVU game as head coach. "There were some tough plays down the stretch. (West Virginia) made the shot they needed to make. I'm proud of the way our team fought. We were already missing some people injury-wise, and then Dorris fouled out. Our team fought and scraped and I'm really proud of our guys."
Darryl Merthie went up over WVU's Joe Mazzulla during the first half. Merthie scored 20 points, including 3-of-5 from three-point range. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Marshall shot very poorly in the first half of the game to fall into a 14-point hole at 7:58 to play in the first half at 23-9. The Herd had hit only 2-of-16 shots, was 0-of-5 from three and had five turnovers. Matt Walls, who hit only 2-of-12 shots on the night, got the Herd going from three with one of his two treys right after the Mountaineer lead hit 14. Marshall would out-score WVU 18-14 for the rest of the first half, making 8-of-16 shots and holding WVU to just five more field goals in the half by forcing four Mountaineer turnovers.
The assistant coach of the Herd, Shawn Finney, joined the radio crew after the game and like many Marshall fans, he saw quite a few positives in the loss. "It was a great game and great effort by our guys," said Finney, the former head coach at Conference USA's Tulane. "They could have ducked their heads with all our shortcomings, but they hung in there and cut a ten-point lead to a tie with a chance to win. We battled, we had some guys making tough plays who hadn't been in that situation.
Darryl Merthie and Tirrell Baines put pressure on WVU's Joe Mazzulla late in the second half. WVU edged Marshall for a 66-64 win at the Charleston Civic Center. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
"That last play, Butler gets in the paint and scores over us. We wanted to make sure we got a look (on the offensive end), and Matt looked open in the corner, but Darryl lost the ball driving for two to tie and we didn't get a shot off." Merthie, who hit 9-of-14 at the line by driving inside, was trying to drive for a tying shot or another foul. A Mountaineer player may have got a hand on the ball as it bounced away from Merthie to Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes but the time ran out before he could attempt a shot.
Center Jesse Oglesby, who had never played more than six minutes this season and last season had two games in his career with double-digit minutes, played a career-best 13 minutes for the Herd and Finney was impressed with the junior who was appearing in only his 25th game in three seasons, and just game number five of this season. "I thought Jesse gave us incredible minutes. When you look at what he was doing, he didn't really score points but gave us a great defensive presence. He banged and gave us a physical presence. He gave us an emotional lift because of how hard he played and it was a great effort on his part." Oglesby hit 2-for-2 at the line for two points and two rebounds. "You look at Taurean and Markel being out, and losing Mark, Tyler and Tirrell late, we needed him to step up his game," said Finney. "I can't say enough about the effort and how all our guys stepped up."
Marshall will not have long to recover, as the Herd will return to Charleston on Friday to fly to Houston and play the 14-4 Cougars on Saturday night. UH beat city rival Rice tonight, but the 3-15 Owls also made the rivalry game tough in a 69-60 Cougar win. "I think when you look at our schedule, we have played Louisville, we've played Memphis, we've played WVU and played UAB, a physical team, big and athletic," said Finney of preparing for Houston. "Those are all big, athletic teams and Houston is one of the more athletic teams in our league. They will come out and try to half-court trap us, press us some, really get out in an aggressive man. They will be physical and playing WVU and those other team hopefully will have us ready." The Herd tips at 8 p.m. Eastern time from Houston, then returns home next Wednesday to face Tulsa in the Cam Henderson Center at 7 p.m.