GAME NOTES: State rivals will collide on Saturday, as the West Virginia Mountaineers take on the Marshall Thundering Herd in the Capital Classic at the Charleston Civic Center.
West Virginia lost its second straight game on Tuesday when it was defeated, 80-76, by Gonzaga. The Mountaineers are now 6-4 overall with the other three losses coming courtesy of Virginia Tech, Wisconsin and Missouri. Coach Bob Huggins is 65-21 in non-conference regular season games with the program. The Mountaineers are adept offensively, which has led to an average of 82.8 points per game. They are allowing only 69.2 ppg to their opposition. WVU will return home to play Purdue after its bout in the capital city.
The Thundering Herd fell, 90-77, at Penn State last weekend which extended their losing streak to three. Tom Herrion's squad has not won outside of Huntington this season and although it is 4-5, two of its losses came in overtime. Marshall's uptempo style of play has led to the second best scoring average in Conference USA at 84.8 ppg, but it is also last in the league in points allowed per game (79.7).
This will be the 42nd meeting in history between these schools. WVU holds a 30-11 all-time series lead. Out of the last 15 encounters, 11 have been decided by single-digits, with two of the contests ending in overtime.
The Mountaineers are led by the duo of Eron Harris and Juwan Staten. Harris has knocked down 31 attempts from beyond the arc en route to a team-high 19.3 ppg. The 6-foot-1 Staten is contributing 16.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per tilt and has also tallied 68 assists to 14 turnovers. Harris paced WVU in its loss to Gonzaga with 23 points, but only five came after halftime. Staten posted 17 points and nine boards while Terry Henderson added 15 points. The Mountaineers were limited to 37.3 percent shooting from the floor in the contest including a 9-of-27 clip from behind the 3-point line.
Marshall has a one-two punch of its own with Elijah Pittman and Kareem Canty standing out through the first nine games. Pittman has converted 47.8 percent of his field goal tries to score a C-USA best 21.4 ppg. Canty was named the league's Freshman of the Week for the second consecutive week on Monday after he poured in 23 ppg against Vanderbilt and Penn State. The freshman point guard is also ranked 10th nationally in assists per game (6.7). The Herd had a very poor shooting performance versus the Nittany Lions and managed to hit on only 29.7 percent of their field goal tries in the first half. Marshall's lack of success this season is in part due to its weak effort on the glass, which was apparent in its last outing. PSU held a 47-40 edge in the rebounding battle which helped it to a 19-9 advantage in second-chance points.
Both of these teams are very young as Pittman will be the only senior announced as a starter. Chris Thomas and Canty will really be tested by WVU's high caliber backcourt of Harris and Staten. Although the Mountaineers' post players are not very skilled, they are very physical which should help WVU control the boards and give Pittman trouble.
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