MORGANTOWN - It's an annual battle waged by Bob Huggins as his West Virginia basketball team prepares to face Marshall.
How does he convey to his players just what it's all about?
On one hand, this season could be a bit more difficult than those in the recent past. Only three Mountaineers who are in the current eight-man rotation played significant minutes in the most recent game between the teams - Juwan Staten, Gary Browne and Kevin Noreen. Two others, Eron Harris and Terry Henderson, played but barely got off the bench.
Then again, if Huggins needs visual aids to impress upon his players the sheer nastiness involved when the teams meet, well, he has it. All he needs to do is turn on the tape from the final 97 seconds of WVU's 69-59 win a year ago.
As the teams get set to renew their Charleston-based rivalry in tonight's 7:30 p.m. game at the Civic Center, still fresh is how that last game ended. To say that Harris and Henderson barely got off the bench is accurate, but misleading, as well. They did so when a scuffle broke out late in the game and were eventually ejected for it, two of five players so punished.
If nothing else, that should serve to illustrate the point to just about everyone.
"It's hard sometimes, especially for young guys,'' Huggins said of trying to get them to understand the bitterness that generally exists and sometimes dominates this series. "Sometimes they have to experience it to find out.''
Well, what players from both West Virginia (6-4) and Marshall (4-5) will find is likely a rough, close, foul-filled game. Recent history suggests little else.
In the last six games of the series, for instance, the teams have combined to commit 286 fouls and shoot 325 free throws. There are exceptions, of course, but take last year's game, for example. Marshall made eight more 3-pointers than West Virginia and nearly as many total field goals (22-19), but lost by 10 because the Mountaineers made twice as many free throws.