"They're Marshall. That's all I know,'' Kilicli said. "They're a rival. That's the only thing you have to know. That's what they told me when I first came here. Pitt and Marshall. You don't like those guys. That's what they told me.''
And so West Virginia plays like they don't like the other guys. Hey, Marshall does, too, but at least statistically it's hard to argue that the physical nature of the game hasn't been ratcheted up since Bob Huggins arrived at WVU. John Beilein's teams were more finesse. Huggins? Well, not so much.
The numbers back it up, too. This wasn't always a foulfest. Beginning in 2000, the first eight games between these teams produced only two games in which the total fouls called eclipsed the mid-30s - 48 in 2001 and 43 in 2004. None of those games produced more than 39 free throws.
The free throws attempted in the last four years have been 61, 68, 46 and 70.
Now, you could also blame it on tight officiating, of course, but for the most part these are not throw-away referees who have worked these games. Perhaps they do get a bit caught up in the reputation the game has and have an inclination to call things close and try not to let it get out of hand, but if that's the case then usually just the opposite occurs.
No, the main reason is probably just the intensity and the desire to win. And because Marshall won a year ago, snapping a four-game WVU winning streak, don't expect the Mountaineers to come out with anything less than an aggressive approach.
"We still have last year's loss in the back of our minds,'' West Virginia's Kevin Jones said. "I know I do, Truck [Bryant] does, Turk [Kilicli] does. We know that they're a tough team and we're going to be ready for a fight.''
Unfortunately, if it does come down to a rugged fight and repeated trips to the foul line, well, that doesn't bode well for either team or fans of well-played basketball. And here's why:
West Virginia ranks 297th in Division I in free-throw shooting. And that's positively scorching compared to Marshall, which ranks No. 321. For the record, then, there are just 41 schools that shoot free throws worse than WVU and only 17 that throw up more bricks than the Herd.
Yes, this could get really ugly.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.