Marshall presents some matchup challenges with a lineup heavy on guards and swingmen.
Markell Humphrey and Travis Aikens are classic tweener players, but that certainly shouldn't be construed as a negative. The pair has the ability to score from inside or out, and will be a challenge for WVU's forwards to contain. Humphrey (So., 6-5, 215lbs.) averages 14.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per contest, while Aikens (Sr., 6-4, 190 lbs.) contributes 11.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per outing.
The Herd also has a pair of solid guards. Point man Chris Ross (Sr., 6-1, 180 lbs.) directs the Marshall attack, and has 70 assists on the season. He averages 7.3 points per game, and leads the team in steals with 31. Transfer Mark Dorris (Jr., 6-2, 175lbs.) is the team's best three-point threat, averaging 14.2 points per game on the strength of 38.2% shooting from long range.
Center Jean Francois Bo Grebe is the lone classic post player in the starting lineup. The Ivory Coast native (Jr., 6-9, 230 lbs.) averages 4.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, and also blocks nearly two shots per game.
Off the bench, Tre Whitted and Darryl Merthie are the primary subs in the backcourt, and there's not much dropoff when they are in the game. Whitted (Sr., 6-4, 200 lbs.), who has starting experience, averages 8.9 points in nearly 20 minutes of action per contest, while Merthie (So., 6-0, 190 lbs.), a prop 48 player who sat out last year, adds 5.1 points per outing. Robbie Jackson (Fr., 7-0, 265 lbs.) spells Bo Grebe at center, and has 3.5 points and 3.4 rebounds to game to show for his efforts.
Marshall's record is a bit deceiving, as the Herd has suffered a number of close losses to quality opponents this season. Add in the fever pitch that Marshall always works itself up to in this contest, and it figures again to be a close contest.
|Wed Jan 24|
Charleston Civic Center
WVU 14-4, 4-3
MU 7-11, 2-3
|Sirius Channel: None|
WVU - 55
MU - 130
In order to relieve the pressure, WVU must attack, especially when subjected to traps, in order to make the defense pay for getting away from the basket. That doesn't mean the Mountaineers should run helter-skelter up and down the court, or turn the game into a track meet. However, they also can't rely on just pitching the ball back and forth between the guards, or trying to clear the court to let one bring it up on the dribble. West Virginia's forwards must be active participants against the pressure, and take the ball to the basket when WVU gets an advantage in numbers. On the flip side, they must recognize when to back the ball out to the guards and set the offense – and that's a difficult balancing act for any player, much less the still-learning youngsters on the WVU squad. It's one, however, that separates tournament teams from those staying at home, and if West Virginia still hopes to make it to the Big Dance, one they will have to show signs of mastering.
Unlike previous years, West Virginia needs a win in this game to bolster its chances of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The question is whether that fact will impact WVU in a positive or negative manner. Whether that adds more pressure to the contest, or turns out to provide additional motivation for the Mountaineers, remains to be seen.
West Virginia is 49-18 (.731) all-time at the Charleston Civic Center and 57-20 (.740) all-time in Charleston. The Civic Center numbers include two different locations in the building. The original basketball structure, which is now a convention arena, was in use up until approximately 1980, when the new Coliseum was added to the structure.
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That Marshall has been competitive in almost all of its games this year is illustrated by the fact that the Herd has held the lead in the second half in 14 of 18 games in 2006- 07. However, that doesn't seem to impress MU fans, as the Herd has had just one sellout in the last 19 seasons at the Henderson Center.
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Darris Nichols is shooting 46.2% from the field – a better mark than any Mountaineer starter outside center Rob Summers, who has taken just 58 shots. However, Nichols is just fifth in shots attempted on the Mountaineer team. His pass first mentality is obviously a good thing, but Nichols must shoot the ball more, especially on drives to the basket. He has taken just 119 shots on the season – even sum Da'Sean Butler (130) has taken more.
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Marshall is 0-3 in neutral site games this year, while WVU is 3-1, including a 71-60 win over N.C. State in Charleston. In that game, WVU reversed the shooting woes it had suffered at the venue in earlier years, making 46% of its three-pointers. MU's three losses at the Great Alaska shootout came by a total of nine points.