WVU Battles Marshall Wednesday
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Keeping Marshall off the glass will be West Virginia’s No. 1 objective when the two teams are reunited Wednesday night in Charleston for the annual Chesapeake Energy Capital Classic at the Charleston Civic Center.
“They’re a great rebounding team,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “They’re probably the best that we’ve seen to this point.”
Marshall enters Wednesday night’s game as the nation’s top offensive rebounding team pulling down an average of 17.6 per game. Overall, the Herd owns a plus-11 advantage on the glass and has out-rebounded 15 of their 17 opponents so far this year.
“They’re bigger, they’re more athletic and they attack the glass hard,” said West Virginia senior forward Kevin Jones, who leads the Big East with an average of 11.6 rebounds per game. “The biggest part of the game, I think, is going to be rebounding.”
In its 72-69 victory over Cincinnati on Nov. 25, Marshall had a 43-30 advantage on the backboards and the Herd also posted a 46-33 rebounding edge over top-ranked Syracuse in a 62-56 loss to the Orange back on Dec. 6.
Forwards Dennis Tinnon (83 offensive rebounds) and Robert Goff (40 offensive rebounds) are particularly good at pounding the boards and creating extra offensive opportunities.
“They get there all the time,” said Huggins. “It’s kind of what I say to our guys all the time, if you get there you might get some. If you never get there you’re probably not going to get any and they get there all the time. Tinnon’s got great bounce and he’s got great second bounce, and Goff’s a big body with great hands.”
Marshall (13-4) is not a great shooting team (43.2 percent overall and 30.5 percent from 3), but Huggins says the Herd are good at hitting timely shots and creating additional offense with their hustle in the paint.
“They’re a very opportunistic team,” Huggins explained. “They make shots when they need to make shots. They can miss and then (Damier) Pitts will make shots. (DeAndre) Kane will make shots, but obviously when you rebound the ball you get more chances. And if you look, they get a ton of chances because they rebound the ball so well.”
Pitts played really well in last year’s game against West Virginia in Charleston, hitting three big 3s and going 10 of 11 from the line for a game-high 25 points to help Marshall snap the Mountaineers’ four-game winning streak in the series.
Pitts is having another solid season in 2012, ranking second on the team in scoring (13.4 ppg.) while leading Marshall with 81 assists and 34 3-point field goals.
“Pitts is really good,” said Huggins. “He gets everybody involved; he scores and he makes big shots. He made big shots against us a year ago and when their offense started to get a little stagnant he made big shots for them. He made big shots for them against Cincinnati and he’s made big shots all along.”
Kane, a 6-foot-4 sophomore guard, is fourth in Conference USA in scoring averaging 15.9 points per game. The Pittsburgh resident has reached double figures in 14 of 17 games so far this year with a season-high 29 in Marshall’s one-point win over Belmont on Dec. 29. Kane has topped 20 points in a game four times, including 21 in Marshall’s recent two-point victory over Alabama-Birmingham on Jan. 11.
Tinnon is averaging a shade below 10 points while pulling down an average of 10.9 rebounds per contest. The 6-foot-8, 225-pound junior forward shows eight double-doubles this year, including 15 points and 14 rebounds against Cincinnati and 17 points and 12 rebounds versus Syracuse. Tinnon had a season-high 19 rebounds in the UAB win.
Goff (7.8 ppg.) and junior guard Shaquille Johnson (7.3 ppg.) can also score.
“Pitts is a senior. Johnson is a senior and there is something to be said for having an experienced team,” said Huggins.
Marshall coach Tom Herrion is in his second season with the Herd after most recently working on Jamie Dixon’s staff at Pitt. Herrion is 35-16 heading into Wednesday night’s Capital Classic, and he has Marshall gunning for its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1987.
“They’re just like Pitt,” said West Virginia guard Truck Bryant. “Their coach used to be at Pitt and they run the same exact things. That’s how we have to prepare - just like we’re playing Pitt.”
“I think he’s done a great job of taking the players that were there and adding what they needed to it,” added Huggins. “He’s done a great job of recruiting inside guys. Their perimeter guys are basically the same, and he’s got them to buy into the way he wants them to play, which is most of the battle.”
Meanwhile, West Virginia (13-5) is coming off a 24-point victory over Rutgers on Saturday afternoon at the Coliseum. The Mountaineers have won three of their last four in conference action and they will be stepping outside of Big East play for the final time during the regular season.
WVU has a tough Big East game coming up this Saturday against Cincinnati in Morgantown before heading to New York for a pair of conference road tilts against St. John’s and Syracuse.
Jones (20.1 ppg.) and Bryant (17.8) are averaging 37.9 points per game between them, Jones the team’s most consistent player scoring double figures in all 18 games so far this season. Bryant has played extremely well in West Virginia’s 13 wins so far this year, averaging 20.1 points and shooting 45.2 percent overall, but not so well in its five losses, averaging just 12 points and shooting 25.3 percent in those games.
“They did a great job against us last year,” said Bryant. “We’re a different team now and I know we will be ready to play.”
Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and the contest will be televised statewide on the Capital Classic Network (John Sanders and Frank Giardina) as well as nationally on ESPN3.
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