Marshall, West Virginia battle for state supremacy

By The Sports Xchange  |  March 17, 2018 at 9:22 PM
share with facebook
share with twitter
| License Photo

SAN DIEGO -- After sparking Marshall's first NCAA Tournament victory, Jon Elmore enjoyed the well-wishing tweets from some better-known point guards, players such as Chris Paul and D'Angelo Russell.

Now the upset darlings aim to make more history against a familiar team that owns volumes of it.

"It's awesome for the university, but we're not satisfied," Elmore said on the eve of the Herd's second-round game against the state's flagship program, West Virginia (25-10). "Us being from West Virginia allows us to play with more of a chip on our shoulder and play with that extra edge."

Elmore's 27 points led an 81-75 upset of Wichita State, and the 13th-seeded Herd (25-10) will be double-digit underdogs again Sunday night at Viejas Arena. That venue sits 2,300 miles west of the Charleston Civic Center, where Marshall and WVU met every season from 1993 until 2016.

"You talk to everybody back home, half of the state's population is probably flying out here right now for the game," Elmore said.

Mixing deep shooting range with crafty spins around the basket, Elmore enters as the nation's ninth-leading scorer (22.9 per game). He's sure to face constant harassment from Jevon Carter, the reigning NABC Defensive Player of the Year.

"He can score many different ways," said Carter, whose tight defense limited Murray State's Jonathan Stark to 1-of-12 shooting in the opener. "We're going to key in on him, team defense, just like we did against Murray State."

Whereas "Press Virginia" frequently aims to speed up opponents into reckless turnovers, Marshall already embraces a freeway-style attack, playing at the seventh-fastest pace in the country, according to KenPom.

Coach Dan D'Antoni, taking cues from the rapid-fire offense his brother Mike utilized in the NBA, encourages players to shoot loose and quickly. With C.J. Burks, Ajdin Penava and Elmore combing for more than 58 points per game, the Herd ranks 10th in scoring and sixth in 3-point attempts.

"They do a terrific job with spacing," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. "I think Danny probably does as good of a job of spacing as anybody we have in coaching."

D'Antoni said he favors his free-flowing system precisely for matchups like this against physically superior talent. He joked about scouting West Virginia with his eyes closed after noticing how big they were.

Could crisp passing and a spread floor could mitigate the talent gap and propel Marshall into the Sweet 16?

"We're not as athletic and big, but they're not as fast as that ball," he said. "So we can get the ball moving it will give our 3-point shooters angles to get 'em off. Now you get two, we get three, you get two, we get 3, you get 2, we get 3, we win!"

West Virginia leads the series 33-11, winning nine of the last 10.

As fans talk smack and the buzz swells back in the Mountain State, Carter shrugged off the local storyline. He said there's no better motivation than leading West Virgina to its third Sweet 16 in four seasons.

"Don't matter," he insisted. "This is March. We're here to win a national championship. It just happens that we just matched up against Marshall. Don't matter who it is. We're going to come to play."

Related UPI Stories
Trending Stories