Two in-state foes being forced back together on the court by the NCAA Tournament thousands of miles from home became a one-sided celebration for West Virginia.
Jevon Carter was the one leading the way.
Carter scored 28 points, Lamont West added 18 off the bench and West Virginia overwhelmed its in-state rival beating Marshall 94-71 on Sunday night in the second-round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Mountain State showdown out on the West Coast was all about the fifth-seeded Mountaineers. Bigger, more physical and making fewer mistakes, West Virginia (26-10) took control with a 19-0 first-half run. Carter’s three 3-pointers in the first five minutes of the second half made sure there wouldn’t be a rally coming from the 13th-seeded Thundering Herd. Carter added five assists, five steals and four rebounds and did it in just 29 minutes, sending West Virginia back to the round of 16 for the second straight year.
The Mountaineers will face top-seeded Villanova next Friday.
“We did it for the state,” West said. “We just wanted to go out there and play hard. We knew that we didn’t want to go home with (a loss) and we did what we could do.”
Aside from his scoring, Carter was the leader of West Virginia’s swarming defense that made the night miserable for the Herd. Marshall star Jon Elmore had more turnovers than points in the first half and was held to 15 points after scoring 27 points in the upset of Wichita State.
Ajdin Penava led the Herd (25-11) with 18 points, but Marshall had 18 turnovers and shot just 39 percent.
“You’re not going to set up and run offense against this team, especially the way they played tonight because it was a full press the while time,” Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni said.
The first meeting between the in-state rivals since 2015 when their annual series abruptly ended was a big enough event that West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice flew out to watch the game in person. Wearing a blazer that was half dark blue and half green, Justice spent the first half on the West Virginia sideline and the second half with the Marshall cheering section.
There wasn’t much cheering from the Marshall fans as West Virginia led by as many as 31 in the second half.
But this was decided in the first 20 minutes thanks to West Virginia’s dominant run to take control. While Carter, West and their teammates were getting easy looks at the offensive end, Marshall became careless with the ball and missed a number of shots around the rim. After taking an 18-11 lead, Marshall missed six layups in the final 13 minutes of the first half and watched West Virginia surge ahead. Elmore was the most notable Marshall player to struggle with West Virginia’s pressure finishing the first half with just three points — scored in the first 65 seconds of the game — and six turnovers.
“We just tried to make it hard for him. We played team defense and we frustrated him a little bit. He just didn’t know where to throw the ball and ended up causing him to turn the ball over,” West Virginia guard James Bolden said.
West Virginia led 42-25 at the half and Carter’s early 3s to start the second half ended any thought of a rally. Carter had 17 points in the second half.
“We don’t just want to go to the Sweet 16,” Carter said.
D’Antoni reiterated after the loss the series between the schools should be restarted.
“The game that we played should be played all the time. We would be better. It’s better for West Virginia. Nobody lost this game. We won. We had the passion of West Virginia people there, passion of Marshall people there. That’s what life is about,” he said.
Marshall: It wasn’t 3-point shooting that was the problem. Marshall was 12 of 26 from deep, but just 10 of 30 on its shots inside the arc. The combination of turnovers and poor shooting inside the 3-point line was far too much to overcome.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers have been knocked out in the regional semifinals in each of their last two trips to the Sweet 16. West Virginia was eliminated by Kentucky in 2015 in a 39-point blowout and last year lost by three to Gonzaga. West Virginia has lost in the round of 16 in four of its last five trips there. The one exception was 2010 when the Mountaineers reached the Final Four.
Marshall: The Herd should again be contenders in Conference USA next year with all five starters returning.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers will face Villanova. West Virginia has faced Villanova just once in the NCAA Tournament in 1962.
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