CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Even as it trailed early in the second half, No. 20 West Virginia saw signs that its size, tenacity and pressure were doing damage. And that Marshall was on the brink of a fast fade.
When the tuckered Herd failed to score a field goal during a 7-minute stretch, West Virginia pulled away 86-68 at the Capital Classic on Thursday night, matching the widest margin of victory in the series’ 44-game history.
MVP Jevon Carter scored 15 points and Daxter Miles added 14 for the Mountaineers (9-1), who trailed 38-37 before taking command with a 16-1 run before a split crowd of 11,748 at the Charleston Civic Center.
“I think we sped them up,” Carter said. “They started missing shots, they started getting tired and people were cramping. I just think they weren’t used to our style.”
Though leading scorer Devin Williams was held to single-digits scoring for the first time this season, West Virginia stretched the gap to 23 points and won its fifth consecutive Classic in decidedly un-Classic fashion.
“They started cramping and we were only 2 minutes in the second half,” Williams said. “That’s what our press is there for, to wear them down. I didn’t expect them to be worn down 2 minutes into the second half, but hey, they were and we capitalized.”
Elijah Macon scored 12 points off the bench, picking up the slack after Williams encountered foul trouble and was held scoreless until 16:20 remained in the game. Macon’s most thunderous points came off an alley-oop lob from Tarik Phillip that made the lead 64-45.
Ryan Taylor’s 15 points led The Herd (3-7), who have not beaten a ranked opponent since 2011 when it upset then-No. 21 West Virginia 75-71 in the same arena. Any chances of an upset this time evaporated when Marshall’s 3-point shooters went cold—their 6-of-12 start followed by 14 consecutive misses to close the game.
Taylor surpassed the 1,000-point mark but fouled out, as did forward James Kelly, whose 11 points were six below his season average. Transfer guard Jon Elmore, playing in his second game since becoming eligible after last year’s transfer from VMI, scored 14 points though he shot a miserable 1-of-9 shooting from the floor.
“We just stopped knocking down shots,” Elmore said. “We couldn’t throw one in the ocean and I think that had a lot to do with our energy dying and them taking over the game.”
West Virginia, which led 25-9 in second-chance points thanks to 22 offensive rebounds, owned the glass 46-32 overall, led by Jonathan Holton’s eight rebounds and Williams’ seven.
“The second-chance points just beat us up and it looked like we got tired,” said Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni. “And when they substitute they’re substituting older kids, and we’re going down to freshmen.”
In extending its series advantage to 33-11, West Virginia scored 51 second-half points on 48-percent shooting, while Marshall slumped to 25 percent after intermission to finish at 34 percent overall.
As the game lived up to its ragged reputation with 53 fouls and 67 free throws, the booing crowd thought officials were too stifling at times. For instance, even with a comfortable lead, West Virginia was called for six fouls in the final 1:48 and two in the final 11 seconds.
“They say all our games are chippy, you know,” Phillip said. “That’s hard playing and that’s how we are.”