Kilicli in the middle of it all
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- IF YOU attended or watched the telecast of Wednesday's Capital Classic, you know that, once again, it was a real kick in the pants.
OK, well, part of the pants.
What will always be remembered from this game was the Ndamukong Suh-like kick from Marshall's Robert Goff to West Virginia's Juwan Staten and the fracas and ejections that followed.
That, perhaps, more than the final outcome: a 69-59 WVU victory before a somewhat weak Civic Center crowd of 11,512.
There were flagrant fouls and technical fouls and ejections and 45 personal fouls. There was terrible shooting.
In other words, exactly what we've grown accustomed to in this matchup.
And there was one man who seemed to be in the midst of all the action. One man who seemed to control the ebb and flow: WVU's Deniz Kilicli.
"It was great," said the 6-foot-9 senior. "That's why I play basketball. I like it, man. It was great."
Early, he was the one getting his shot blocked by Goff and, at the other end, watching MU's DeAndre Kane jam it home. But when he started to come around, so did the Mountaineers.
WVU went from down by seven in the first half to up by six, 31-25, at the break. Kilicli had 10 points in the span.
In the second half, Kilicli would get loose in the lane - and, seconds later, hear WVU coach Bob Huggins scream, "Deniz! Will you block out!?"
He'd come back with a left hook. He came back to score 21 points in the game with five rebounds.
And, yes, he was in the middle of the Kick Heard Round West Virginia. After a Staten miss, it was the Turk who got the rebound and, falling, flipped the ball up and in with his left hand before crashing. The pileup is what led to the kick.
"On the last possession, actually, I was running back," Kilicli said. "I didn't see it."
Kilicli finished the game in classic Kilicli style: throwing an errant inbounds pass that led to a Marshall bucket before making his own via an alley-oop pass from Staten.
Yet he wasn't done. After the game, Kilicli drew a media crowd - and threw gas on the already flammable rivalry.
He spoke of the scuffle.
"I really don't want to get into it, but this is the reason why we can't [confront Marshall]," he said. "We are West Virginia; we are the state's team. We have proven it over and over again. But we can't do this.
"You know, we are the ones playing the big-time schedule. We've got higher [ranked] recruits. We can't get into that. We can't get into all that pushing and shoving and talking trash. We can't get into that."
Kilicli pointed to the ejections and that some Mountaineers didn't realize they'd get tossed for simply leaving the bench.
"It's every Capital Classic," said the forward. "Most of the time ..."
"You know how I said there'd be 85 fouls? That's why. [The officials] were calling everything. It happens all the time. If you're on the court, you can hear [the contact].
"[Marshall's players are] talking all the time. And I like it. I mean, I just laugh at it. They're players and I talk to them. I'm always laughing at them. They get pissed off more, I think, when I do that, but ..."
Kilicli was on a roll like Bluto from "Animal House."
"We always talk about it," he said. "[Marshall's players] are the guys who want to be in our spot. This is one of the biggest games they play. And they played really hard. But they lost. It's hard when you're that pumped up and it's one of your biggest games and it's for the state and all your fans. When you lose, it's hard. But you cannot do that, try to hit people and all that.
"But it's OK. We won the game and that's all the matters. The Marshall seniors don't have a chance again. They can do whatever they want to do now."
It was Kilicli's night. His team won. He was the game's high scorer. He was holding court.
"I was in everything today," he said. "And that's what I like. I'm really tired right now and I like that. We played a good game and won."
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.