SAN DIEGO — The WVU men’s basketball team took “Hillbilly Ball” to the woodshed.
Behind a dominant rebounding performance and Jevon Carter’s 28 points, the Mountaineers clinched another trip to the Sweet 16 by overwhelming Marshall, 94-71, on March 18, in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Fifth-seeded WVU (26-10), which built a 31-point lead in the second half, will face the East Region’s top seed Villanova at 7:27 p.m. March 23, in Boston, on TBS.
Meanwhile, 13th-seeded Marshall (25-11) exits with the accomplishment of its first NCAA victory, and the sour taste of a blowout loss to its in-state rival.
Herd coach Dan D’Antoni’s free-flowing, quick-shooting offense couldn’t rattle the Mountaineers, who poured on the points themselves.
Lamont West broke a three-game scoreless drought with 18 points. He also snatched a career-high 10 rebounds as part of WVU’s 40-24 edge on the boards.
Carter needed only five seconds to break the ice, scoring off the opening tip, and he left more marks from deep, finishing with 5 of 7 shooting from 3.
He also made five steals, upstaging Marshall guard Jon Elmore, the nation’s ninth-leading scorer at 22.9 per game. The junior managed only 15 points while committing a career-worst eight turnovers.
Elmore extended his string of consecutive double-digit scoring games to 71 and broke Skip Henderson’s single-season school scoring record, but couldn’t prevent Marshall from losing its six consecutive meeting against WVU.
Ajdin Penava had 18 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Herd, which returns most of its rotation next season. C.J. Burks scored 12 points, albeit on 3 of 15 shooting.
WVU, headed back to the Sweet 16 for the third time in four seasons, also got 11 points from James “Beetle” Bolden and 10 from Esa Ahmad.
After ambushing Wichita State in the opener, Marshall kept its upset mojo working early. Elmore’s first 3-point attempt sat on the back of the rim before falling in, and when Penava and Jannsen Williams followed with wide-open 3s of their own, the Herd seemed cocked and comfortable.
Soon, reserve forward Darius George paired a corner 3 with an acrobatic putback to build a 20-15 lead.
Over the half’s final 10:52, however, the offense dried up amid seven turnovers and 1 of 13 shooting.
That gave WVU a window to take control, which it did with a 27-5 burst. Carter’s twisting layup one second before the half made it a 42-25 margin.
No. 13 seeds fell to 6-22 in second round games.