Preview: WVU - Marshall

West Virginia returns to the Charleston Civic Center in hopes of completing a two-game sweep at the facility in 2014 when it tangles with Marshall on Sunday afternoon.


"Under New Management" and "Under Construction" signs hang all over the Marshall program, as new head coach Dan D'Antoni revamps a program that had some talent but little discipline under the former regime. The first year college head coach will certainly imprint his stamp on the Herd, but like any big project it will take some time. Marshall is 3-5 this year, displaying all the signs of a team in transition. It has played well at times, hanging tough with Louisville for the better part of the game, but also losing to Morehead State, Cleveland State and Penn State at home. Those losses are part of a current five-game losing streak that followed three season-opening wins.

The bulk of Marshall's productivity in the projected starting lineup has come from forwards Ryan Taylor (6-5, 225 lbs.) and Cheikh Sane (6-9, 225 lbs.) The former is flirting with a season double-double, averaging 15.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, while the latter, an athletic leaper, is having his best year with 7.4 points and 6.8 boards per outing. The duo combines for more than half of the Herd's 31 blocked shots on the season.

In the backcourt, Austin Loop heads a group that has had up and down performances this year. The 6-5 sophomore averages 8.6 points per game, and is also a chief long-range threat, hitting 37% of his 46 attempts from distance. Justin Edmonds (6-4, 220 lbs.) and Aleksa Nicolic (6-5, 190 lbs.) , both of whom made their first starts of the season in the Herd's most recent outing against Penn State, have combined to average just more than seven points per game this year.

The Herd has made a number of adjustments to its starting lineup this year, one of which is due to the shoulder injury of Shawn Smith (6-6, 225 lbs.), who started the first five games before missing the last three with a shoulder injury. His 12 points per game and solid 3-point shooting are sorely missed by MU, and his return would be a big boost to a team struggling to find consistent scoring.

Other backups to watch include forward Jay Johnson (6-7, 230 lbs.), who adds eight points and five rebounds per game while averaging nearly 22 minutes per outing, and sometime starters JP Kambola (6-9, 245 lbs.) and Devince Boykins, who contribute ten points per contest to the Herd scoring column. At 6-9, Kambola provides more height for the Herd front line, while the veteran Boykins (6-4, 210 lbs.) adds depth to the backcourt.


Historically, West Virginia has not shot the ball well in the dimly-lit Charleston Civic Center, but that trend showed signs of a reversal in the Mountaineers' visit to the Capital City earlier this year.
Game Info
Sun Dec 14
4:30 PM E
Charleston Civic Center
Charleston, WV
WVU 8-1, 0-0
MU 3-5, 0-0
WVU 31-11
ROOT Sports
WVU - 39
MU - 312
Against VMI on Nov. 26, WVU hit almost 52% of its chances from the field. Granted, a number of those were run-outs and close-in attempts in transition, but the Mountaineers also made better than 44% of its threes on its way to 103 points. Whether that was an anomaly or a sign of better things to come in the building remains to be seen, but at least there is some current success to build upon.

Overall, though, both teams have been hampered by the inability to make shots. WVU, despite that Civic Center game, is making just 41% of its shots from the field, while the Herd has dipped below the 40% mark at 39.9. That statistic will bear watching in this game, especially in the early, emotion-fueled minutes of the contest.

For WVU, it's another year of players learning what this game means to Marshall. With as many as seven players set to make their first-ever appearance in the in-state contest, they'll get a quick education in what it takes to knock off a team that has always seemed to put more emphasis on this game than on any other. It will be no surprise if the Herd comes out and plays well, and West Virginia can't let them seize the initiative -- otherwise it could be an uphill battle that lasts into the early evening. The best scenario for WVU is to ride its pressure game, get some early steals, and force Marshall into an early deficit. Riding a five-game losing streak, that could be enough to get heads down along D'Antoni's bench.

WVU must also convert its shots inside and in the lane. While the Herd has the ability to contend with the Mountaineers defensively in the paint, this is a game in which the state's flagship institution has an advantage in numbers. There would be no better time for West Virginia to improve in that area than in its final four games before league play starts.


WVU basketball legend Hot Rod Hundley was honored by the Charleston YMCA the day before the game. That institution, where Hundley basically grew up after being abandoned by his mother, named its gym for the Mountaineer great in an excellent ceremony on Saturday. Hundley is West Virginia's second all-time leading scorer with 2,180 points.

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As might be expected from a team in rebuilding mode, Marshall has put a number of different starting lineups on the court. Nine different Herdsmen have started at least one game this year for D'Antoni.

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Austin Loop tops the Herd in steals with eight. West Virginia, owing to its pressure defense, has nine players with more than that number. Jonathan Holton tops WVU with 19 thefts.

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WVU guard Juwan Staten is closing in a the 1,000-point club. He would have to have a monster game against the Herd to join it on the Civic Center court, as he needs 32 points to reach the magic number. When he does, he will be the 49th member of that group at West Virginia.

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