West Virginia Rallies Past Marshall

Frank Young matched a career-high with 25 points and West Virginia scored a season-high 56 second-half points in a 77-63 win over Marshall in Charleston on Wednesday.

Young jumpstarted WVU (15-4, 4-3 Big East) with the team's first six points, then tallied 16 in the second half to rally the Mountaineers past Marshall (7-12, 2-3 C-USA) for its first win in three series tries and its 25th win in 35 all-time games versus the Herd. The first half appeared as though it would be a repeat of the past two games between the teams. Marshall played an uptempo, low-scoring style that took WVU out if its halfcourt sets on offense. The Mountaineers matched their season average with 11 turnovers in the first half that led to 17 MU points.

The second half was a diametric opposite. WVU began to find its open looks and, after a 10-3 run to end the first period, tied the game for the first time by scoring 17 of the first 29 second-half points. Young hit an initial lay-up to continue the comeback and Joe Alexander – shutout in the first half – scored his first seven points in a 13-point outing to pull the Mountaineers within three at 33-30 with 16:32 left. Darris Nichols took over from there, converting two baskets and three of four free throws as WVU claimed the lead for the first time. By the time Marshall matched its 26 first half points scored in the second, WVU had tallied 41 and held a 62-52 lead, its largest of the game to that point.

It continually built upon the edge by making seven of eight free throws in a stretch that saw Marshall pick up a technical on head coach Ron Jirsa and Marshall get into foul trouble with the third fouls on both Markel Humphrey and Travis Aikens. With the two forwards now limited, WVU continued to go inside, where Young hit a tip-in before his three-pointer. The lead eventually ballooned to 11 while Aikens was on the bench as his third and fourth foul came within 3:25 (15:02 to 11:37). The game was sealed when Young drilled six consecutive points for a 73-57 advantage with 2:39 seconds.

The senior's burst gave West Virginia its largest lead of the game at 16 points, and his free throws with 45 seconds left provided the final margin. The latter shots helped Young to match his career high, set earlier this season in a win over Villanova. Lost in the outburst from Young was that sixth-man Da'Sean Butler made two key steals late after West Virginia head coach John Beilein, burnt by the Marshall dissection of the trademark 1-3-1 zone, went to a man zone for the majority of the second half before inserting Butler at the head of the zone. Marshall had gone scoreless in the first half in 14 possessions against WVU's man, and Beilein returned to what worked, then flipped the defense back to the zone with Butler as the point. His two steals in as many possessions started the deciding 8-0 run in which Young hit his six straight points.

"It's not a gimmick defense," Beilein said of a set that had not allowed many points, but did allow MU to get to the interior in the first half. "There are times when you use it, and when you don't, though. The kids played with confidence, and this is what we really needed. We were challenged and faced some adversity and were still able to overcome."

The win was West Virginia's first away from home in four tries. It took the Mountaineers more than four minutes to get their first basket of the game and their 21 first-half points tied a season low. WVU trailed for the first 27-plus minutes before its rally, and it hit just two first-half three-pointers. Marshall made just one, but the Herd, like the Mountaineers, shot better than 50 percent from inside the arc. It was that game which enabled MU to lead early until West Virginia finally pushed back a bit.

"We were angry a bit," Young said. "Coach was angry. He knew that wasn't the team he had been coaching since October. We had to attack them, and we did that in the second half. It was good to get this and build our confidence up."

Nichols added 16 points for West Virginia, which shot 18-of-27 (67 percent) from the floor after halftime. Markel Humphrey scored 18 and Mark Dorris had 14 points for Marshall. Smalligan scored seven points of the bench for WVU, including a dunk and a three-pointer, and limited Humphrey inside in the last 10 minutes. Butler added five points and the steals and backup point guard Joe Mazzulla tallied six points and was able to handle the ball reasonably well under pressure. West Virginia, winners of two of its last three after road losses to Top 25 teams Notre Dame and Marquette to being their conference season, have now won five of nine games away from home.

"Cincinnati pushed us to the wall, and we didn't respond like we needed to," said Smalligan, who was called for a technical foul late in the first half. "We responded today. This was a big win for us."

It could have been another devastating loss. Marshall, winners of three of the last five in the series entering, appeared as though its inside game and ability to create turnovers against a jittery Mountaineer team would easily separate it before West Virginia would react. But the Herd could manage just a 13-point lead – seemingly a lot upon initial examination, but not nearly as much as needed when WVU finally snapped to. Marshall, leading 11-6 with nine-plus minutes left, went on a 10-2 run to take a 23-10 edge on Mark Dorris' jumper with 5:22 remaining in the first half. It was the only basket that came from the outside in the run; overall, 10 of MU's 12 first-half field goals were from the interior.

Much of that came off turnovers. West Virginia had met its season average of 11 by the break and had tallied six in the first 12 minutes. That allowed Marshall to take a double-digit lead, 19-8, and the first seven Mountaineer turnovers led to 13 Herd points, half of its halftime total of 26 as MU managed a five-point edge at the half. Humphrey had nine points by then to tie Young for game-highs in the first 20 minutes. The WVU senior scored his team's first six points and later hit a three-pointer, one of just two in the initial 20 minutes. West Virginia got as close as 26-21 via scoring 10 of the final 13 points of the half.

"We learned about attacking," Beilein said. "There was a play when Joe Alexander took the ball to the rim and got blocked. He didn't like it, but I thought it was out best play of the game. We were aggressive, and that is something we have been trying to get the kids to do in practice. Getting that shot blocked was the best play of the game. It showed what we were trying to do."

Smalligan provided a spark upon entering and hit five key points and grabbed a pair of boards in a stretch that allowed the Mountaineers to keep pace. After Darryl Merthie's steal and conversion for Marshall's 17th point of the half on the 11 WVU turnovers, Wellington Smith's lay-up at the buzzer ended a run in which MU scored just three points in the final five minutes and hit just one field goal. Both teams shot less than 20 percent from behind the arc in the first half, MU hitting one of 13 (seven percent) and WVU making two of 11 (18 percent). Yet both converted more than 50 percent from two-point range, with the Mountaineers actually outshooting MU by five percent (60 to 55).

West Virginia won its 50th game all-time in Cahrleston, where it is now 50-18. It also advanced to 18-3 all-time in Jan. 24 games. Marshall, in losing four of its last six, fell to 0-4 in neutral site games and 4-12 against WVU in the Civic Center. This was the first meeting in nine tries to be decided by more than six points. Two of those came in overtime.

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