"I myself am, strange and unusual." That line from the movie Beetlejuice is a perfect descriptor for the West Virginia – Marshall basketball game, which again featured its share of offbeat moments as the Mountaineers racked up another win in the lopsided series.
When the Mountaineers and Thundering Herd get together, the bizarre becomes commonplace. This year was no exception, as several strange occurrences dominated the storyline of what was a rather pedestrian WVU win.
A malfunction in the clock above WVU's second half basket led to a fifteen-minute delay in the start of the second half. Players milled around the court, unsure of what to do, until both teams were allowed to shoot at Marshall's rim while a futile attempt was made to repair the malfunctioning unit. That an entire replacement, or at least small substitute, units weren't available was an embarrassment to the Charleston Civic Center.
At one point, WVU's Truck Bryant wandered by a courtside radio broadcast position and noted that it would be ok for the teams to just "call it ourselves." Officials eventually turned off the shot clock and announced the remaining time in five-second increments, starting at the 20-second mark. The process didn't seem to bother either team, as neither one had a violation in the second half. Veteran head coach Bob Huggins joked that, "I'm old, there's not much I haven't seen," when asked if he had played or coached in a game under similar circumstances. He did not think the lack of a clock affected play.
Marshall's Markel Humphrey shoed all the signs of losing a contact lens when he was whacked in the face by Wellington Smith on a play in the lane, but as he departed the game he was immediately attended to by several Marshall staffers. After a couple of minutes of play, several photographers along the baseline noticed something on the floor, and at the next timeout I pointed it out to referee Tony Greene. With some assistance from fellow photographer Dale Sparks, Greene located the object, which turned out to be part of Humphrey's tooth, which Smith's elbow had dislodged on Smith's shot attempt. Greene declared, "I'm not touching that," which was understandable. A Marshall floor attendant was summoned, who swept the tooth into a paper cup with a towel.
Due to some sort of power issue, one of the Herd's main radio outlets was knocked off the air for at least ten minutes. There was no truth to the rumor that it was caused by Marshall fans frustrated with the contest.
The game turned into a free throw shooting contest, with the teams combining for 54 fouls and 68 attempts from the line. Much of this was caused by referee Curtis Shaw, who whistled every bit of contact he saw, and some that he imagined. This killed any sort of flow to the contest, and contributed to a lengthy second half that took more than one hour and ten minutes to complete, not including the delay at the start of the period.
A first half promotion featuring a shootout between a WVU and an MU fan was bizarrely highlighted by a frantic Ronald McDonald, who leaped around and mugged for the fans and cameras with wild abandon. It was a total departure for the image of Ronald, who came across more like the clown in the Stephen King novel It than a happy corporate spokesman. WVU fans also got their first look at the revamped Marco mascot costume, which includes claws instead of hooves and basketball shoes on its feet (presumable hiding more claws). In all, it was a strange night for those in costume.