The Mountaineers earned a hard fought win over rival Marshall in the Capital Classic on Saturday night by a final score of 74-64. After the game, WVU sophomore guard Eron Harris said was happy, but at the same time looking for ways to improve.
"It's a win," said Harris. "Coach Huggins reminded us of that after. It wasn't pretty, but we got a good team win."
WVU came out flat to begin the game and let Marshall start on a 6-0 run over the first three minutes of the game. Harris admitted to not being focused early after the game.
"I was definitely not as focused as I needed to be," said Harris.
It wasn't until 17 minutes to go in the first half until the Mountaineers were able to find the inside of the cylinder. Gary Browne hit a three to make the score 6-3 in favor of the Herd.
Just when it looked like WVU would get back in the game Marshall went on another spurt to open their lead up at 13-6. The Herd would continue to lead the entire first half. The Mountaineers were able to pull within two with under ten minutes to play, 20-18. WVU would hang tight not allowing Marshall to get a lead larger than six points. The Herd took a 33-31 lead into the break.
The story in the first half for the Mountaineers was 11 first half turnovers. The season high heading into tonight in a single game was 14 against Old Dominion when WVU traveled to Cancun earlier this season. WVU finished 16 turnovers.
In the second half, the Mountaineers would need to put together a better effort. Coming out of the break, Terry Henderson was able to draw a foul to position WVU with a chance to tie the game. Henderson knotted the game at 33. Chris Thomas would add six points for Marshall to put the Herd back up by four, 39-35.
Gary Browne hit his second triple of the game to pull the Mountaineers back within one, 39-38. Marshall would get baskets from Ryan Taylor and Kareem Canty to push their lead back to five, 43-38. WVU would chip away at the lead on a basket by Brandon Watkins, making it a 43-40 game. Just when it seemed the Mountaineers would take control Marshall came fighting back.
The Herd answered by pushing the lead back up to six, 47-41. WVU would not let the change in momentum to shut them out. The Mountaineers would pull within one, 54-53, at the 6:59 mark of the second half.
Marshall would get a pair of free throws from Chris Thomas on the next possession, making it 56-53. When the Mountaineers returned to the offensive end, Remi Dibo was able to draw a foul. Dibo would go one of two at the line. At this point it was a two point game, 56-54. Cheikh Sane added to his total on the next possession for the Herd, making the score 58-54.
The Mountaineers received a boost from freshman Brandon Watkins on Saturday night, and he would cut the Marshall lead to two, 58-56. Sane added another basket for the Herd, 60-56. Watkins would match Sane on the next WVU possession, making it a 60-58 game. Kareem Canty put the Herd back on top by four as the Mountaineers were unable to make a stop. Gary Browne would get the deficit back to two, 62-60.
WVU would switch to a trap zone, and it seemed to cause Marshall problems. The Herd would go scoreless over the next two minutes, and Juwan Staten took charge for the Mountaineers. At the 3:41 mark, Staten did what he has done all season long. The leader for WVU gave the Mountaineers their first lead of the night when he completed the three-point play, 63-62. Another defensive stop by the Mountaineers led to a chance for WVU to add to their lead. Staten would drive to the basket again, but would miss the layup. Remi Dibo cleaned up the miss by Staten, and got the put back to give WVU a three point lead, 65-62.
With 2:44 remaining, Shawn Smith drew a foul for the Herd. During the timeout, Marshall's Ryan Taylor was given a dead ball technical foul. Taylor would go one of two at the line for the Herd, making it a 65-63 game. On the other end, Staten would also go one of two. WVU would get the ball back after the free throws by Staten, and would get a layup from their leader. Staten put the Mountaineers up 68-63 with just under three minutes to go in the game.
Gary Browne was able to extend the lead on the next possession, making it a 70-63 lead for WVU. TyQuane Goard drew a foul for Marshall, and would go one for two at the line. With the six point lead, the Herd were forced to foul the Mountaineers. Eron Harris had a chance with 1:07 to go in the game, but would miss a pair of free throws, giving Marshall a chance to hang around.
With 52 seconds to go, Harris would go to the line again for WVU, and this time the two free throws went through. After forcing another defensive stop, Harris added a stylish dunk to cap off a victory against rival Marshall, 74-64.
Freshman Brandon Watkins was named MVP after the win over Marshall. After receiving no playing time on Tuesday against Gonzaga, Watkins was discouraged.
"I was down," said Watkins. "I just told myself I have to work harder."
After his performance against Marshall, his teammates had nothing but great things to say about the freshman.
"I'm just so happy for him," said Gary Browne. "He works hard, and I can tell he's finally getting it."