CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia and Marshall played another of their less-than-classic classics Saturday night at the Civic Center, one of those foul- and turnover-filled affairs that have come to mark the series.
And as it usually does, the result ultimately favored the Mountaineers.
That was largely due to Juwan Staten, who somehow managed to settle down West Virginia after a first half that left Bob Huggins almost speechless and a first 10 minutes of the second half that weren't much better.
It was Staten's three-point play that gave WVU its first lead of the game with inside of four minutes to play, and the Mountaineers never trailed again in winning 74-64. He also had a free throw and a crucial driving layup that really sent the Mountaineers on their way about 60 seconds later.
But Staten provided far more than scoring down the stretch. He was the rudder that finally, almost mercifully straightened out an off-course West Virginia ship.
"We kept the ball in Juwan Staten's hands, which I thought was a great coaching move,'' Huggins said when asked the difference between the first 30 minutes, when his team could do nothing right, to the final 10, when almost nothing went wrong. "Nobody else could hold onto it.''
Indeed, while West Virginia victories over Marshall are almost ordained - this was the third straight WVU win, the seventh in the last eight and the 14th in 18 - this one seemed almost certainly headed the other way most of the night. Indeed, much of that was due to Marshall in general and point guard Kareem Canty (16 points, nine assists) in particular, but West Virginia's first half was also one that Huggins described thusly:
"We couldn't have played worse,'' he said. "It's not conceivable that we could play any worse."
Indeed, consider that just last Tuesday, West Virginia played 40 minutes against No. 20 Gonzaga and turned the ball over five times. The Mountaineers not only exceeded that total in the first six minutes Saturday, they had 11 at halftime and committed No. 16 with about 12 minutes to play and Marshall about to go up by six, 47-41.
But a funny thing happened on the way to 20 or more turnovers. The Mountaineers didn't commit another one.