Herrion knows West Virginia
HUNTINGTON — College basketball's strongest conference is the Big East with nine of its 16 teams in The Associated Press Top 25 this week.
West Virginia University (12-4) made its first poll appearance at No. 21.
So, what gives Marshall University confidence it can beat WVU? Marshall junior guard Dago Pena said it's first-season Thundering Herd head coach Tom Herrion, who knows the Big East from his three seasons as the associate head coach at the University of Pittsburgh.
"Coach Herrion, he knows what it takes," Pena said Monday. "We're playing like a Big East team."
Marshall (12-5) and the Mountaineers meet at 8 p.m., Wednesday, for their annual Capital Classic clash in the sold-out Charleston Civic Center. Marshall's ticket allotment is all gone, and a message on the civic center website said it has no tickets available. WOWK-TV 13 has the telecast.
The women's game between Marshall (5-11) and No. 9 WVU (17-1) tips off at 5:30 p.m. The game is televised on WPBY-33.
West Virginia controls the men's series with 28 wins to Marshall's 10, but most of the games were close. The average margin of victory has been 8.5 points.
Last season's game was more of the same.
Truck Bryant's layup put the Mountaineers ahead, 62-57, with 30 seconds to go. Tyler Wilkerson's 3-point shot for the Herd sliced the gap to 62-60 with 21 seconds remaining.
The Mountaineers made six of eight foul shots in the final 18 seconds of a 68-60 triumph.
After Wilkerson scored Marshall committed three fouls, including a technical on its bench, turned the basketball over twice and didn't attempt another shot.
"Our team is way different from last year," Pena said. "We're much tougher."
Pena is a native of the Dominican Republic who played high school basketball in Florida and has experience of two Capital Classic games.
He said both sides, including the fans, put everything they have into the contest.
It's always intense and the team with the fewest mistakes wins, he said.
"We're both similar," Pena said. "We box out, we guard, we have weapons. It's going to be an equal game."
West Virginia is coming off a Sunday win over Purdue, 68-64, that dropped the Boilermakers to No. 14 in the nation.
Marshall lost some of its momentum Saturday in a Conference USA loss at Memphis, 77-61, but has won seven of its last 10 including a 30-point league blasting of Southern Miss. The Southern Miss Golden Eagles and UCF from C-USA received votes this week for the AP Top 25.
Pena said the way Marshall played against Southern Miss would win many games.
"It's a young team still, with all our new players," he said. "We're getting better. We just have to get on the same page. We have to focus every day.
"We need everybody to do their thing."
Lunch, reception precede game
HUNTINGTON -- Marshall fans can get together at two events before the Capital Classic games Wednesday in Charleston.
Basketball at BrickStreet Luncheon, noon, BrickStreet Insurance, 400 Quarrier Street.
Marshall men's coach Tom Herrion and women's coach Royce Chadwick are speaking.
Individual tickets $20; reserved table for eight $400. Contact the Big Green Scholarship Foundation, 304-696-3385.
Capital Classic Reception hosted by the alumni association, 6 p.m., Charleston Civic Center South Hall.
The pep band, cheerleaders and Marco will attend.
Free admission, music, giveaways, hors d'oeuvres, cash bar.
-- The Herald-Dispatch
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