WVU feels 'at home' in Capital Classic

No matter what the talent level of the two teams might be from year to year, the Capital Classic showdown between West Virginia and Marshall always finds a way to be one of the more interesting matchups of the season every year on the Mountaineers' non-conference schedule.

It's a unique rivalry between the state of West Virginia's two Division I programs. One is a program that has a rich history of success among the elite programs in college basketball, while the other constantly tries to make its mark and spoil the party for the bigger name team each year.

That emotion, added in with a crowd that is equally fired up each year for the matchup at the Charleston Civic Center, makes for a fun environment when the two teams square off. And it's a game that West Virginia is ready to take on Sunday.

"Every time we play them, it's a personal game. We know we have to come out and play as hard as we can," said senior guard Gary Browne.

"If we don't lay it out there, they can always beat us because this is the biggest game they play, so they'll come out fired up."

The game has been going on in Charleston since 1992, when the two teams began meeting in the state's capital to coincide with the regular session of the West Virginia Legislature. First-year Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni brought up the idea that the game should go back to being a home-and-home series, switching between Morgantown and Huntington each season, instead of a neutral-site contest at the Civic Center.

But it was an idea that WVU head coach Bob Huggins does not have much interest in moving forward.

"No," he said. "If it's going to continue, it's going to continue in Charleston."

For Huggins, the idea of keeping the game in Charleston is simple for the Mountaineers. With a large number of West Virginia fans in the southern part of the state, having as many games as possible in Charleston will continue to make it easier for fans in that region to get to see the Mountaineers without having to drive a few hours to get to Morgantown to see a home game at the Coliseum.

West Virginia has played two home games at the Charleston Civic Center in each season but two since 2002-03, usually putting another non-conference game in the mix along with Marshall to get his team another game in Charleston.

"Going to Charleston gives an opportunity to watch us," Huggins said. "Particularly for the people in the southern part of the state."

It's a situation the players have grown to embrace as well - getting the opportunity to see other parts of the state and get to interact with different fans that they don't usually get to see at different times throughout the season.

For players like Browne, who will be taking the Civic Center floor for the final time in his WVU career this weekend, it will be a special occasion that he will want to be able to remember. But it also is something he wants to remember by making sure he and the No. 22 Mountaineers take care of business and move on with another victory.

"It's like playing at home. We've got a lot of fans that come to the games (in Charleston) fired up," Browne said. "It's exciting to play there. It's great for us and great for the state ... It's my last Marshall game, so it's going to be special, but we have to treat it like any other game and play hard."

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