CHARLESTON, W.Va. – At 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds, it’s hard to miss West Virginia’s Deniz Kilicli, and his teammates did a better job of finding him against Marshall.
Kilicli scored a season-high 21 points to lead West Virginia to a 69-59 win over the Thundering Herd on Wednesday night.
West Virginia (3-3) beat its intrastate rival for the sixth time in the last seven meetings and improved to 30-11 all-time in the series.
“We are West Virginia, the state’s team. And we prove it over and over again,” Kilicli said. “Most of our guys haven’t been in this atmosphere before, so they didn’t know what to expect. I told them. I said, `look man, this is what is going to happen. You have to experience it sometimes.”’
Kilicli went 7 of 19 from the floor but made up for that by going 7 of 8 from the line. With a steady diet of baby hooks, he finished a point shy of his career high set last season at Providence.
With Kilicli’s help, West Virginia outscored Marshall 36-18 in the paint.
“This is the kind of game we’ve been hoping for,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “I thought we got the ball to him a lot better.”
West Virginia outrebounded Marshall 13-6 over the final seven minutes and 43-35 overall.
Marshall, which saw its three-game winning streak snapped, turned in another inconsistent performance at the free-throw line, where it was outscored 24-12.
“I’m not sure West Virginia beat us tonight,” said Marshall coach Tom Herrion. “We contributed mightily to the loss, and I mean no disrespect to them.”
D.D. Scarver scored 17 points, Elijah Pittman added 16 and DeAndre Kane had 13 for Marshall (5-4).
Marshall went more than six minutes between field goals and Kilicli’s basket extended West Virginia’s six-point halftime lead to 51-40 with 8:53 left. But Kilicli went to the bench 30 seconds later with his fourth foul.
Pittman kept Marshall’s deficit in single digits temporarily with a pair of 3-pointers, but the Thundering Herd got no closer than five points the rest of the game.
Juwan Staten, who finished with 12 points, made a pair of driving layups 22 seconds apart to put the Mountaineers ahead 59-52 with 2:09 left.
Bad blood between the rivals heated up late in the game.
Although no fight broke out, players from both teams had to be separated with 1:39 left after a Kilicli basket. The officials went to the replay monitor to sort things out.
Marshall’s Robert Goff was ejected, as were four West Virginia players who left the bench: Aaric Murray, Terry Henderson, Jabarie Hinds and Eron Harris. One player for each team also was assessed a technical foul, and two more technicals were called in the final minute.
The annual game at the Charleston Civic Center was moved from its traditional January slot this season to accommodate West Virginia’s debut in the Big 12.
West Virginia missed eight of its first nine shots and trailed by as many as seven early in the first half. Marshall started having turnover problems and lost its shooting touch after starting out strong.
Murray provided a spark with his only three baskets of the game in a two-minute span, putting in a rebound to give the Mountaineers their first lead, 25-24, with 2:45 left until halftime.
Marshall was held to one field goal over the final five minutes of the half and West Virginia finished on a 12-1 run to lead 31-25.
“What helped us lose the game was our 13 turnovers in the first half,” Herrion said. “When we were behind in the second half, you just can’t have empty possessions. You have to convert – and we didn’t convert.”