Center Mark Patton is the heart and soul of this Marshall team, topping the Herd in a number of statistical categories as well as providing emotional leadership. Patton (Sr., 6-9, 250 lbs.) averages 13.8 points and four rebounds per game, and takes playing WVU as a personal challenge. His reaction to last years win was stronger than West Virginia's in its 111-105 in over Wake Forest, which advanced the Mountaineers to the NCAA Sweet 16.
Patton's frontcourt mate, Markel Humphrey (Fr., 6-5, 215 lbs.), is as likely to hoist a three (19-55) as he his to shoot from close in (15-37). He averages 6.9 points per contest, and contributes to a team effort on the boards with four per game.
The Herd is expected to start three guards, but only one is a three-point threat. Chris Ross (Jr. 6-1, 180 lbs) runs the offense reasonably well, but has 59 turnovers against just 65 assists. Mark Dorris (So. 6-2, 195 lbs.) averages 5.1 points per game, but is also not much of an outside threat. The aptly names Tre Whitted (Jr., 6-4, 200 lbs.), however, is a streaky shooter that can light it up from the outside, as his 21 three-pointers on the season attest. All three guards do rebound well, each averaging more than three per game, to help offset the smallish front line.
Travis Aikens provides major scoring and rebounding punch off the bench, as he is second to Patton in both stats. He averages as much time as most of the starters, and gives the Herd a different look when he is on the floor. Although shooting just 26.5% from three-point range, Aikens (Jr., 6-4, 205 lbs.) has still hoisted the second most treys on the squad. Joe Miles (So., 5-11, 175 lbs.) is likewise the big gun off the bench in the backcourt. He averages 11.3 points per outing, and also gets major minutes in Ron Jirsa's rotation. LaVar Carter (Sr., 6-7, 250 lbs.) also pitches in with 4.0 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, and is second on the team in blocks with 13 despite averaging fewer than 17 minutes per outing.
Although John Beilein certainly does his best to downplay themes like revenge, there is no doubt that payback for last year's Marshall Miracle is forefront in the minds of the Mountaineer seniors. While such thoughts and motivations often lead to sloppy play, the thinking here is that West Virginia's disciplined, precise squad will be ready to play the annual game that's hyped to high heavens by those with nothing better to write about for the season.
|Wed Jan 25|
WVU 14-3, 5-0
MU 7-9, 1-3
WVU - 29
MU - 250
For WVU, the key will be holding down Mark Patton, who views this game as the highlight of his season. The Herd inside force might have free rein inside should Pittsnogle not be available due to his impending fatherhood status. However, if he is there, his improved defense against Patton's relentless play on the boards should make for an excellent matchup. It will also be interesting to see how the Herd defends Pittsnogle on the perimeter, as pulling Patton away from the glass would neutralize on of their biggest weapons on the defensive glass.
If this game were any other time of year, it would likely be West Virginia in a walk. However, catching the Mountaineers at the end of a grueling run of ranked teams and road trips, the Herd has to think they have a chance of pulling another monstrous upset that would, like last season, be the highlight of their year.
The Herd claims a total of 42 players with 1,000 or more career points, putting them a putative eighth on the all-time NCAA list in that stat. West Virginia's media guide lists 42 Mountaineers with 1,000 or more career points. Strangely enough, WVU does not show up on the list publicized by Marshall, which "credits" the list to the University of Louisville.
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West Virginia has moved to number two in the nation in three-point field goals. The Mountaineers are now averaging 10.6 per contest, trailing Troy (12.3).
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Marshall is 6-52 all-time against ranked teams. West Virginia has almost as many wins (52) against Top 25 teams as Marshall has faced.
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The last three years of the men's and women's doubleheader has resulted in a sweep. WVU won both games in 2003 and 2004, while the Herd swept last year's contests.
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Under Ron Jirsa, Marshall is 5-37 games in which they score fewer than 70 points.