Deniz Kilicli scored a season-high 21 points and West Virginia survived four ejections from a late-game scrum to beat Marshall 69-59 at the Capital Classic.
WVU (3-3) beat Marshall (5-4) for the fifth time in six games by outscoring its in-state rival 24-12 at the foul line. Even Kilicli, a 42-percent free-throw shooter entering the game, made 7-of-8 and was named the Mountaineers’ MVP.
With 1:37 left and WVU leading 61-54, Aaric Murray, Terry Henderson, Jabarie Hinds and Eron Harris were tossed for leaving the bench after Marshall center Robert Goff appeared to kick Juwan Staten as the two tangled in the lane. Because no punches were thrown, coach Bob Huggins said officials told him the four players would not be suspended for Saturday’s sold-out game against Virginia Tech.
“I don’t know what those guys were doing out there — trying to get a better look I guess,” Huggins said. “Those guys are not what I’d call fighters.”
Goff was charged with a flagrant foul and ejected, while WVU’s Gary Browne was assessed a technical for coming from the opposite end of the court to challenge Goff.
“It’s a family thing,” said Browne. “It wasn’t like we were going to get into a fight, it was just that my teammate was on the ground and we had to come back and get him. Our staff told us if we stay together we can go a long way.”
Kilicli gathered what was left of his team on the bench and tried to cool the situation.
“I told them we’ve got 1:37 on the clock and we’ve got to finish this game somehow,” he said. “Huggs was really (ticked) and yelling at everybody, so I just huddled up everyone and said we’ve got to get together and finish this game.”
The finishing blow came with 1:01 left after Marshall forward Dennis Tinnon grabbed a defensive rebound and promptly was trapped against the baseline by Browne and Keaton Miles. With no guards coming back to help, Tinnon lost the ball out of bounds.
“That was the end of the game,” Browne said. “We out-toughed them, we got the ball and they dropped down and said, ‘It’s over.’”
Staten added 12 points and three assists for West Virginia, while Murray paired a game-high 10 rebounds with seven points and two blocks.
“Aaric’s best game of the year,” Huggins said. “Some of those rebounds weren’t easy. He was very active.”
D.D. Scarver led Marshall with 17 points, while Elijah Pittman added 16, thanks to going 4-of-7 from 3-point range. Team MVP DeAndre Kane had 13 points and seven assists, but he also committed five of the Herd’s 17 turnovers.
Marshall finished 9-of-20 from long distance, while WVU was just 1-of-6. The make came from Hinds off a drive-and-kick by Kilicli — the big forward’s only assist in 30 minutes — and built a 49-39 lead midway through the second half.
Kilicli doesn’t typically attack with his dribble from the perimeter, but when a Marshall defender popped out on him this time, Kilicli saw an opportunity.
“Huggs always said, ‘If you go to the middle, good things happen,’ so I was like, I’m going to go to the middle,” Kilicli said. “And a good thin happened.”
IN THE ZONE
West Virginia seized the lead for good with a 12-1 spurt to end the half, a run that coincided with Huggins switching defenses to a 1-3-1 zone. He planned to experiment with it for just one possession, but he stuck with the zone for the final three minutes and Marshall committed three turnovers in four possessions.
“I’m not sure West Virginia beat us tonight,” said Marshall coach Tom Herrion, pointing to his team’s 12-of-22 free-throw shooting.”We contributed mightily to the loss ourselves. And I don’t mean that in any disrespect to them.”
Herrion also lamented his squad’s inability to handle pressure.
“We got shook,” he said. “We knew they were going to pressure us, but we turned it over every way possible. We got shook and we got sped up.”
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