Holding Off The Herd

While Marshall put a scare into the No. 11 Mountaineers by rallying from a double-digit second half deficit to draw within one point on four different occasions, the Herd couldn't get over the hump and WVU won the annual Chesapeake Energy Capital Classic 68-60.

MU's comeback was engineered largely as a result of solid 3-point shooting from Chris Lutz, who did his best to single-handedly turn the tide of the contest in the second half.

Lutz scored eight straight Marshall points, part of an 11-2 run that narrowed the largest lead either team held (a 10-point WVU advantage after a Da'Sean Butler jumper made it 44-34) back to a single point quickly.

But while West Virginia couldn't keep its big lead, it never allowed the Herd to take the lead or tie the game, scoring six points in the final 19 seconds -- all from the free throw line -- to pull away for the win.

Indeed, on another night when the Mountaineers struggled to hit their jump shots, it was a rare performance from the charity stripe that saved them. WVU shot 71.4 percent from the line (20-of-28). It made eight more free throws than MU -- and those eight points accounted for the margin of victory.

Beyond that, head coach Bob Huggins and company did its best to attack the interior of Marshall's 2-3 zone defense in the second half -- helping to minimize the impact of the poor jump shooting.

One of those who has struggled most with his shot, Da'Sean Butler, was one of the chief beneficiaries, hitting all six of his field goals from two-point range.

"We threw it close and Da'Sean finished," said Huggins, when asked what the key was to breaking down the zone in the second half. "The truth is, we threw it close the whole game and didn't finish."

It was hard for Butler to do much more in the second half, as the senior was one of several Mountaineers who played in considerable foul trouble all game long.

The forward and reserve John Flowers (who had a standout defensive performance, tallying four blocks) each played much of the final minutes with four fouls. Wellington Smith picked up his third personal early in the second half and sat for most of the remainder of the contest.

"We needed people to step up with Da'Sean in foul trouble," Huggins said.

"We played a pretty good basketball team and I think it's good to win one for our guys with Da'Sean in foul trouble the whole game."

That win came despite the best efforts of Marshall's Lutz and Hassan Whiteside, who was the hero of the first half for the Herd.

This game recap presented by The Book Exchange

Lutz scored all of his 16 points in the final 20 minutes, including four 3-pointers. Whiteside had 18 points, but only two of them came in the final 12:00 of action.

To try to slow the two scorers down, Huggins employed just about every defense his team had in its arsenal. Nothing seemed to work, and the third-year West Virginia coach blamed that partially on the inexperience of some of his players.

"We brought the point-drop (zone) out of the moth balls," he said.

"We haven't spent as much time on point-drop as we did a year ago, and Pep (reserve guard Dalton Pepper) gets lost (in it). We do the 1-3-1 (zone) and Pep gets lost. We've got to spend some time on that."

But despite those struggles, the Mountaineers managed to hand the Herd only their third defeat of the season, thanks largely to their success on the glass. WVU out-rebounded its opposition 36-24, including a 13-5 edge on the offensive glass.

"We had to," Huggins said simply of the need for his team to use defense and rebounding to beat yet another foe.

"I told them at halftime, ‘Let's be honest. We don't have great shooters.'"

"We are what we are. We're a team that has to play incredibly hard and really guard. We're going to have to change defenses. We can't give a steady diet of man-to-man. I wanted to do a bit of that early in the season so we could get better at it."

The game was closely contested throughout the first half, as the six-point edge WVU held after a Flowers 3-pointer with 1:23 left before intermission was the largest lead for either team.

Both squads had identical 10-of-26 shooting marks, but Marshall players assisted on eight of their 10 field goals -- against only two turnovers. But rebounding and free throws helped power the Mountaineers to a 33-28 halftime lead.

For West Virginia (14-3), Butler managed 16 points despite not hitting a 3-pointer and playing in foul trouble essentially all game. Truck Bryant scored 14 -- seven of which came from the foul line on eight attempts. Kevin Jones had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, but the sophomore hit only five of his 14 field goal attempts.

The squad's attention now turns to its last non-conference game before the NCAA Tournament, as a surging Ohio State team will visit the WVU Coliseum on Saturday.

"We needed to get out of here alive, and we did," Huggins said. "We'll go back and try to fix the things we need to fix."



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