CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Even given all the bad blood in the basketball series between West Virginia and Marshall, never had it been reduced to mass technical fouls and multiple ejections.
Well, now we can honestly say the series has had it all.
Marked by a bizarre final 97 seconds in which there were five technical fouls and the ejection of five players - four of them Mountaineers - West Virginia won yet another game over Marshall Wednesday night at the Charleston Civic Center.
The 69-59 win was WVU's sixth in the last seven games against Marshall. The Mountaineers now lead the all-time series 30-11, including 17-5 since the game was anchored in Charleston in 1992.
But aside from continuing that relative domination, little was usual about this one.
Oh, the game itself ran pretty much true to form. Neither team shot well (WVU 33.3 percent, Marshall 39.1), there were plenty of free throws (52) and Marshall hung its hat on 3-pointers (9) while WVU relied on its defense.
That last factor, defense, was the difference as far as the Mountaineers were concerned.
"They [Marshall] hadn't played a team yet that played great defense,'' WVU guard Gary Browne said. "Of course when we started guarding them they got frustrated and they fouled and did all the other stuff.''
And it was that other stuff that will probably be most remembered.
For the record, Deniz Kilicli led WVU with 21 points, Juwan Staten had 12 points and Aaric Murray added seven points and 10 rebounds. All of them sat out large chunks of the game because of foul trouble, and in their stead Browne had seven points and Keaton Miles contributed six and five rebounds.
Marshall, meanwhile, got 17 points from D.D. Scarver and 16 from Elijah Pittman. Those two also combined for eight 3s. DeAndre Kane had 13 points and seven assists, but also had five of his team's 17 turnovers.
But all of that became footnotes when, with 1:37 to play, after Kilicli had just put in a short shot that gave the Mountaineers a 61-54 edge, Staten and Marshall's Robert Goff found themselves sprawled on the floor. As Staten got up, Goff kicked him between the legs from the floor.
That precipitated a bench clearing from WVU's bench just a few feet away. The players were quickly separated.
But then after a lengthy review, the game officials ejected Goff for his flagrant foul, assessed technicals to Browne and Nigel Spikes and then ejected four West Virginia players who weren't even in the game. And that's the reason Jabarie Hinds, Murray, Eron Harris and Terry Henderson were ejected - for leaving the bench.
Afterward, coach Bob Huggins was able to make light of it given that it really didn't affect his team.
"Only one of those guys would have been in the game,'' Huggins said. "I don't know what they thought. They probably wanted to get a better view. Those four aren't what you'd call fighters.''
During the long break - perhaps 10 full minutes - West Virginia's players (or at least those still eligible) gathered and composed themselves. When they returned, they closed out the game with relative ease.
"We just talked about coming together and pulling this thing out,'' Miles said. "The only thing that mattered were the five guys on the floor, not anything else that happened.''
Marshall coach Tom Herrion pretty much refused to talk about the incident, other than to say he was "still a little befuddled by the whole thing.''
Things couldn't have gone much better for Marshall early in the game. The Herd not only made five of its first seven shots, it managed to render moot its own sloppiness with the ball by not allowing WVU to score off its turnovers. Of course, that was made easier by the fact that the Mountaineers missed 13 of their first 17 shots.
Eventually, though, Marshall's shooters cooled on one end and those turnovers began to matter at the other. After that 5-of-7 start, MU finished the half by missing 12 of 16 shots and West Virginia also outscored the Herd on those turnovers 10-1.
Still, West Virginia trailed until less than three minutes remained in the half. Behind 24-19, the Mountaineers ran and pressed Marshall dizzy over the last 41/2 minutes, finished with a 12-2 run and led 31-25 at the break.
West Virginia immediately saw its lead cut to one to start the second half, but quickly put the margin back up and added to it.
At one point extending its free-throw streak to 17 in a row, the Mountaineers took their first double-digit lead on their first 3-pointer of the game, Hinds' at the 9:41 mark. The margin there was as high as 11 when Kilicli scored on an inbound pass and went up 51-40.
The margin began to close when Kilicli left shortly thereafter with his fourth foul and Marshall began making a handful of free throws and some timely 3-pointers by Pittman and Scarver, each of them pulling the Herd within five points when WVU seemed just about to establish some space.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.
WVU 69, HERD 59
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