With Devin Williams in foul trouble, the No. 20 Mountaineers trailed by as many as six in the first half. When he returned, so did WVU’s knock out ability as Williams dominated the glass in the decisive 16-1 run that turned a one-point deficit into a 53-39 lead with less than 11 minutes left. Williams scored six of his nine points during the run, but was a far bigger threat in completely controlling the interior, using putbacks and a series of defensive rebounds that sealed Marshall’s fate for the fifth straight season.
The game was never close from that point on, as the Mountaineers added on via cumulative pressure and the accumulating frustration of the Herd to win its ninth in 10 series games and tie for the biggest series win since the initial contest in 1929.
Five different Mountaineers scored during the key run, a microcosm of a superior second half that saw Marshall wilt under the combination of Williams and the relentless press. West Virginia turned the Herd over five times in two-plus minutes in the middle of the second half, leading to multiple dunks and the 53-39 lead. That ballooned to as large as 82-59 with 98 seconds left as WVU used excellent scoring balance. Six players scored between nine and 15 points, led by 15 from WVU Capital Classic MVP Jevon Carter. Dexter Miles added 14 and Elijah Macon came off the bench to score 12, eight in the first half while Williams sat with foul trouble. Williams finished with seven rebounds. Jonathan Holton had a game-best eight.
“We turn the ball over too much to be really good,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said on the MSN by IMG postgame radio show. “If we would stop doing that and get our turnovers underneath 10, we’d be a pretty good basketball team. And we have to make lay-ups. How many did we miss? I think we charted we missed 15 shots in the paint.”
West Virginia (9-1) finished with 19 turnovers forced, but committed 18 of their own. That combined with the foul trouble of Williams — he sat the final 12 minutes of the second half, and was forced to leave again at the 8:50 mark with his fourth foul — to keep Marshall in the game until the major run.
“I think Devin was in foul trouble here a year ago,” Huggins said. “I’m to the point I don’t know what a foul is anymore. Devin was vertical (on one foul). Whatever it is, it needs to be more consistent.”
The first half was a series of runs, as West Virginia led 35-32 at the break. Marshall hit four of their first six threes, and six overall in the half, to keep the contest close. WVU rallied from an 8-2 deficit to lead 15-11, most on the backs of a trio of three-pointers in a 10-0 run. But the Mountaineers never pushed the pace the way it had in most games, and a 20-14 lead segued into MU scoring 12 of the game’s next 13 points to lead 26-21 inside eight minutes left. West Virginia then responded with a 7-0 spurt, and the teams jostled from there as the first half saw three lead changes and four ties.
After the hot start, West Virginia forced Marshall into deeper shots from long range, and the Herd responded by missed their last 17 threes, including all 13 in the second half. Marshall finished 6-of-27 after starting 6-of-8 from behind the arc. The Herd (3-7) shot 34 percent overall to snap a modest three-game winning streak. WVU made 46.2 percent from the floor, but missed 15 of 35 free throws.
“We shoot 100 a day,” Huggins said. “I can’t make it for them. I don’t understand how Dax shoots it as well as he does, but can’t make a free throw.”
West Virginia finished with a 48-32 edge in rebounding, including 2 on the offensive end. WVU took 15 more shots and made 12 more field goals than Marshall. MU’s Ryan Taylor led the Herd with 15 points and was named team MVP. Jon Elmore made 11-of-12 free throws and finished with 14 points despite missing eight of nine from the floor.
The 18-point win in front of 11,748 was the biggest in the series since West Virginia won 74-56 in 1990; The Mountaineers beat Marshall 44-21 in 1929. WVU has won nine of 10 to start a season for the second straight year and the second time since the 2010 Final Four season.