West Virginia (3-3) relied on its defense to create offense in a hard-fought 69 to 59 victory over Marshall (5-4) in the 2012 edition of the Chesapeake Energy Capital Classic Wednesday night in the Charleston Civic Center.
The Mountaineers struggled in the half-court, but used a key stretch in the first half when head coach Bob Huggins switched to the 1-3-1 zone defense to propel West Virginia 12-1 run to end the first half and give them a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
The game, as it usually does in Charleston, got very chippy between the two teams leading to multiple technical and five players ejected with four from West Virginia. The ejections happened when Deniz Kilicli was able to score a basket falling down in the post tripping over Goff, which led to a scrum between the two teams after Goff was tangled up with Staten and appeared to kick him. Both coaches were on the floor and a replay of the situation led to the ejection of Goff for Marshall and the ejections of Henderson, Hinds, Harris and Murray for leaving the bench.
Kilicli led the Mountaineers in scoring with 21, and the senior was awarded player of the game.
Marshall opened the game with a turnover, but scored the first points on a three-pointer by D.D. Scarver, but the Mountaineers were quick down the floor to get on the scoreboard with a nifty reverse by Juwan Staten.
A Terry Henderson free throw just under the 17-minute mark tied the game at 3 apiece, but back to back baskets by Elijah Pittman put the Herd out front by four points.
The score stood at 7-3 after the first media timeout, and the Herd was able to extend that advantage to 12-5 after a DeAndre Kane three pointer and a layup by Scarver.
The Mountaineers were plagued by misses close to the basket in the opening ten minutes and struggled from the floor hitting on only 4 of their first 16 from the field. But back-to-back baskets close by way of transition and establishing Kilicli in the post had cut the deficit to 12-9.
Marshall once again relied on the three-ball to push the advantage back out to six when Pittman found himself open on the right side of the floor.
The Mountaineers offense bogged down for the most part in the half court over the first ten minutes relying on Kilicli in the post, but was able to prevent the Herd from building a big lead by playing well on the defensive end of the floor, especially in the post. And two sets of successful free throws by the Mountaineers put the score at 15-13.
Gary Browne electrified the Civic Center with a steal where he ran into the passing lane snatched the ball and then threw it off the Marshall defender before falling out of bounds, giving the ball back to the Mountaineers. But that momentum was short lived because Kilicli's shot in the post on the ensuing possession was blocked leading to a Kane run-away dunk to make the score 19-13.
A close basket by Browne and a pair of Kilicli free-throws had the Mountaineers down only 19-17 with 6:14 left in the half despite the struggles on the offensive end. And a put back by Aaric Murray next to the basket tied the game up, but the Herd quickly answered back with yet another three-pointer by Scarver and two free throws by Dennis Tinnon.
The Mountaineers responded quickly as well taking their first lead of the game at 25-24 on a Murray put-back that ended a 6-0 run by West Virginia with just outside two-minutes left in the half.
Defensively the Mountaineers went with the 1-3-1 zone defense near the end of the half leading 27-24, and it worked forcing a held-ball and a turnover on consecutive possessions while causing confusion for the Herd. The move also allowed West Virginia to turn its defense into offense and get out in transition.
The Mountaineers would take their biggest lead of the half at 31-25 on a pull-up jumper from Hinds to send West Virginia into the locker room with momentum although that could have been even more after Keaton Miles dunk has time expired was waived off.
The Mountaineers finished the first half shooting 33-percent from the floor (10-30) but were able to take advantage of the free throw line hitting 92-percent (11-12) including a perfect 6-6 mark from center Kilicli.
The senior led the Mountaineers in scoring with 10-points, while Marshall was led by Scarver with 9-points. The Herd shot 39.1 percent from the field, including 4-8 from three-point range. But West Virginia's defense was able to force 13 Marshall turnovers.
Both teams began the second half slow, with turnovers and missed opportunities as both teams failed to score until Kane got loose on a layup but missed the free throw attempt.
However, the Mountaineers were unable to covert on a short basket and after Kilicli fell down in the backcourt the Herd were able to hit a three pointer to close it to a single point. West Virginia was able to extend the lead on a Kilicli layup on a nice look from Staten and a pair of free throws by Miles to put the score at 37-32 with just over 16-minutes left.
Marshall would hit a free throw, but freshman guard Terry Henderson would triple that effort by connecting on a trio after being fouled shooting a three to give the Mountaineers a 40-33 lead. Kane would score quickly on the other end getting to the basket on an impressive drive as the fast pact play continued.
The lead would be pushed back out to a seven-point lead when Browne was found under the rim for an easy basket but Kane would score again getting into the lane to keep the Herd within five points with just under 13-minutes left.
West Virginia went up 44-37 on a hard-nosed layup from Kevin Noreen after gathering an offensive rebound, but the play on the court began to get a little chippy with fouls coming in bunches on both ends of the floor.
Kilicli put the Mountaineers up by nine points with just over 11-minutes left in the game on a fall-away hook shot from the left block, and that lead would be quickly cut to seven points after a pair of free throws by Nigel Spikes.
Hinds hit the first-three pointer on the night for the Mountaineers to give them the biggest lead at 49-39 with 9:40 left leading to a timeout. And after another Marshall free throw the Mountaineers would take an 11-point lead on a hook shot from Kilicli deep in the post.
Marshall was in the double bonus with over half the game left, and took advantage of the stripe hitting three out of four to whittle the lead down to 51-43 with just over eight minutes remaining in the game.
And that lead would get even tighter after a three-pointer from Pittman who was wide open on the right side of the floor but the Mountaineers would answer with a free throw from Murray and would switch to the 1-3-1 again on defense.
Out of a timeout, head coach Bob Huggins drew up a great play on a backdoor to Miles which led to an easy dunk bringing the crowd to its feet, but like they had for most of the game the Herd was able to cut that lead on another Pittman three-pointer to put the score at 54-49.
A Noreen free throw and an impressive running floater on a drive by Staten put the Mountaineers back up at 57-49, but a Scarver three-pointer put the score back at five with 2:22 left in the game.
The teams then traded buckets, and Kilicli was able to score but that's when the incident between the two teams would lead to ejections. Browne would connect on a pair of free throws to put the lead at 63-54 and Miles would force a critical turnover after a flurry of activity led to the sophomore knocking the ball out of bounds.
Another technical foul was called on Staten for attempting to dunk after the whistle once he was fouled and the two teams traded free throws. On the next possession the Mountaineers were able to force an offensive foul on Kane leading 65-56 and were able to salt the game away over the final minute from the free throw line.
West Virginia will head home for its next contest against Virginia Tech Saturday at 4 p.m.