COACH BOB HUGGINS' POSTGAME REMARKS ON MSN RADIO
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Kevin Jones scored 25 points and grabbed seven rebounds and Truck Bryant added 22 to power West Virginia to a 78-62 victory over Marshall Wednesday night in the Chesapeake Energy Capital Classic in Charleston, W.Va.
West Virginia’s 16-point victory snaps a trend of close games that has seen 11 of the last 13 meetings decided by single digits, including two overtime contests. It was the largest margin of victory by either team since 1990 when Marshall defeated West Virginia 97-80 in Huntington.
Tonight, the Mountaineers (14-5) took control of the game in the second half, limiting Marshall (13-5) to just 15 points during a 15-minute stretch in the second half to build a double digit lead.
“We wanted to make them play against our half-court defense, which I think is getting better,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins.
Jones nailed two big 3s during the stretch, one coming at the end of the shot clock with 6:49 remaining to put West Virginia ahead by 10, 55-45, and then later hitting another from the wing with 4:33 left to expand the Mountaineers’ lead to 15, 62-47.
“KJ made some huge shots for us,” said Huggins. “With the clock running down he hits a 3. He hit a 3 in the corner that really kind of extended the lead.”
West Virginia’s biggest lead of the game was 19, 71-52, with 1:32 to go.
That was in stark contrast to the first half when it looked like a completely different game, particularly with West Virginia’s starting center Deniz Kilicli sitting on the bench in street clothes with an ankle injury.
Marshall used its size and some breakout baskets to build a 27-20 lead with 3:12 left in the first half. But WVU freshman Aaron Brown responded with back-to-back baskets, the first coming after following Jones’ miss and the second a straight-on bank shot from the top of the key.
“Going in at halftime, I told our guys that they weren’t scoring against our half-court defense,” said Huggins. “We gave them run outs, we threw the ball to them and we just didn’t do a very good job with our offense and with our transition from offense to defense.”
The Mountaineers eventually tied it 27-all on Jabarie Hinds’ driving layup, but Damier Pitts answered with a transition 3 with 43 seconds left – one of three he made for the evening.
Marshall had a chance to expand its three-point lead when Jones airballed his 3-point try, but Marshall turned the basketball over on the inbound pass, leading to Bryant’s 3 from the corner to tie the game at halftime.
West Virginia shot 52 percent for the game (28 of 54) including a sizzling 16 of 26 in the second half. The Mountaineers also owned the glass, out-rebounding the Herd 37-27. Marshall came into the game as one of the top rebounding teams in the country with a plus-11 rebounding margin.
“I thought we did a really good job of rebounding the basketball and not giving them second shots because they are a terrific offensive rebounding team,” said Huggins. “They’ve got guys with a lot of bounce and they play a bunch of guys, so they’ve got a lot of fresh bodies going out there.”
Hinds and Gary Browne each scored 10 for West Virginia, while the combo of Kevin Noreen and Dominique Rutledge combined to score 7 points, grab eight rebounds, hand out two assists and block one shot in Kilicli’s absence.
“Even though Kevin Noreen can’t block or change shots, he is seemingly in the right position all the time and he also passes the ball extremely well when he’s on the floor,” said Huggins. “Dom gave us minutes but he still is learning. He didn’t hedge some screens and they scored, and I don’t know what he was doing on one of the rebounds they got (for a follow up basket). He was on the wrong side of the guy, but we need to get minutes from him.”
The Mountaineers used just eight players tonight.
“I think we got good minutes from a lot of different people,” said Huggins.
Marshall got 19 points from DeAndre Kane and 15 from Pitts, who scorched the Mountaineers for 25 in last year’s 75-71 Marshall victory.
Forward Dennis Tinnon pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds for Marshall.
A capacity crowd of 12,684 witnessed tonight’s game.
“If we should have learned one thing from last year, if we stick together and we listen and we run our stuff, we’re going to have a chance no matter who we play,” said Huggins.
West Virginia returns to the WVU Coliseum on Saturday to face a streaking Cincinnati team that is coming off a 70-67 victory at 13th-ranked Connecticut earlier tonight. The Bearcats are now in sole possession of second place in the Big East standings with a 5-1 record.
Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. and the game will be televised nationally on ESPNU.Notes:
Truck Bryant was 4 of 17 shooting before making his last three field goal attempts of the game … Jones’ 25 points was the 11th time he’s topped 20 this year and the 15th time for his career … Bryant’s 22 moved him past forward Ricky Robinson into 19th place on West Virginia’s all-time scoring list with 1,374 points … Jones moved to within one point of tying Mark Workman for 14th among WVU’s all-time scorers … Workman scored 1,553 points from 1950-52 … West Virginia’s 10-3 record in regular season non-conference action gives the Mountaineers their 20th consecutive winning record against non-league foes dating back to the 1991 season … Kudos to officials Doug Sirmons, Les Jones and Jamie Luckie for letting the two teams play … There were just 32 combined fouls during tonight’s game – most of those coming late when Marshall was trying to get back into the game … There were 158 fouls called in the prior three West Virginia-Marshall games … The Thundering Herd resumes Conference-USA action on Saturday at Southern Miss … Marshall sits atop the C-USA standings with a 4-0 league record.