Marshall (8-8) trailed at the half 34-23, cut a 21-point lead to ten twice in the second half but never really threatened West Virginia (12-4) in any manner. The Mountaineers and the Herd had a number of freshmen who played well in the game, but none better than WVU frosh point guard Darryl Bryant who is known as "Truck." He left tracks over the Herd defense by scoring a career-high 22 points on 4-of-8 shooting, 3-of-3 from three and 11-of-15 from the line in 37 minutes of play. He has four assists and three turnovers, plus a steal and rebound to lead WVU to the win for the third year in a row.
Shaquille Johnson drove past WVU's Alex Ruoff in the second half of the Mountaineers' 87-76 win over The Herd in Charleston on Wednesday evening. photo by Rick Haye for Herd Insider
"You have to do everything right to beat a team like West Virginia," said Marshall coach Donnie Jones. "We got beat late on some offensive rebounds and some different things. They were holding teams to 58 points per game so at least we were able to score," Jones said. "We just weren't able to stop them. We had to foul a lot and they wound up making 30 free throws."
WVU made a season's best 3o free throws, on 42 attempts, in a game that saw the officials call 20 fouls on the Herd in the second half and 14 on WVU. The game was further sapped of energy by a delay of nearly 30 minutes to try and repair a shot clock on the Mountaineers end of the floor after both teams had returned to the floor following halftime.
The start of the second half, after the long delay, may have been the point where the game really got away from Marshall. Bryant hit a three, followed by an Alex Ruoff three, part of his 15 points, and another Bryant three and Marshall went down by 20 points, 43-23, with just 1:50 off the second half clock. Jones took a time out to slow the West Virginia run after the first two treys, but Marshall eventually found itself down by the largest margin of the game, 50-29, with 14 minutes to go.
"I thought we played very well in spurts and I thought we guarded well in spurts," said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. "But giving up 53 points in the second half is unacceptable and letting them shoot 53 percent in the second half is unacceptable. That's what separates us from the upper echelon in our league right now," Huggins said.
Marshall freshman Dago Pena and WVU's Alex Ruoff battled for this loose ball in the second half. . photo by Rick Haye for Herd Insider
The WVU coach, now 3-0 against the Herd all-time including one win at Cincinnati, was not happy about the rush the Herd's talented freshman had once the game appeared out of reach. Damier Pitts, one of three Thundering Herd players to foul out, scored all 11 of his points in the second half. So did fellow frosh guard Shaquille Johnson, who had 15 points and five assists in the second half, shooting 4-of-5 from the floor and 1-of-1 from three.
Marshall also got a gutty effort from senior Markel Humphrey, playing on a left foot with a stress fracture and deep bone bruise. Just as WVVU was taking a 21-point lead, Humphrey was hit in the mouth by the elbow of Wellington Smith, cracking his front tooth. Octavius Spann did play well replacing Humphrey, with eight points, three rebounds and two threes, but the Herd's only senior would not remain on the bench long.
Despite losing a tooth during the game, Markel Humphrey fought through double-teams by WVU to the tune of 13 points, 8 rebounds. photo by Rick Haye for Herd Insider
Humphrey re-entered the game about seven minutes later and would score five of his 13 points in the final minutes of the game. He also led the Herd in rebounding with eight on the game, five on the offensive glass, and has an assist, block and steal in only his third Capital City Classic. He missed last season with a stress fracture in the right foot, part of a three-game break last year for injuries.
"There are times when we are going to get out-manned but Humphrey shouldn't have out-manned us and he did tonight," Huggins said. "He's a senior and we have freshmen and sophomores in there. We are young." Marshall recovered from a poor first-half shooting performance to shoot 52.9 percent in the second half, including 5-for-10 from three, and shot 46.5 percent for the game. "I told the guys after the game that I'm tired of telling guys the same thing time after time after time," said Huggins of his team's defense in the second half. "If you don't do it right, come out of the game and sit by me."
Da'Sean Butler had 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting for the Mountaineers. Freshman Devin Ebanks, who also fouled out as did Smith for WVU, scored 12 points and hit 6-of-8 shots. Ruoff shot 4-of-9 from the floor, 2-of-5 from three. WVU, shooting just 64 percent from the line this season, and who nearly lost to Marshall in a two-point game last year in Charleston, was on fire at the stripe. They hit 71.4 percent for the game, and in the first half were 8-of-11 for 73 percent. WVU out-rebounded MU by five, 35-to-30.
"When you have really good teams, they enjoy playing on the road," Huggins said of winning at Charleston after being blown out at Marquette on Saturday. "The really good teams I've had enjoyed playing on the road and they enjoyed going into packed places and quieting them. They love to go in there and just shut them up and have them leave early and have everybody gone and on their way by the time the game ends.We've got to get that mentality." West Virginia, 1-2 in league play, starts a stretch in Big East play with a home game on Saturday in Morgantown against South Florida, but will face seven ranked teams in the next ten games and four will be on the road.
Marshall will turn its attention back to Conference USA with Saturday night's tip at Tulsa at 8 p.m. (ET) from Oklahoma. Marshall is 1-1 in league play, but will face a Golden Hurricane team coming off a last-second home loss to Memphis by one point on a lay-up by Antonio Anderson at the buzzer. MU returns home Wednesday, Jan. 21 to face SMU.