CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) Bob Huggins challenged his players’ overall commitment to work harder on their shots after a sluggish week in practice showed on the court.
Juwan Staten scored 15 points, including two free throws with 7 seconds left to preserve No. 22 West Virginia’s 69-66 victory over Marshall on Sunday night.
West Virginia (9-1) played from behind for much of the game. Huggins didn’t want to blame his team’s offensive struggles on time spent concentrating on end-of-semester exams over the past week.
Still, he hinted that some players could have worked harder on their jumpers shots and on free throws, the latter of which gave the Mountaineers problems against Marshall.
”We have some guys who have to put a bunch of time in to be consistent shooting the ball,” he said. ”They’re not whatever you say, `pure’ shooters. When they don’t work hard at it, it don’t go in.
”We’ve got a lot of the guys who generally are in (the gym) that haven’t been in there. We can’t blame it all on finals.”
West Virginia struggled from the field for most of the game. Nonetheless, West Virginia (9-1) is off to its best start since going 11-0 in the 2009-10 season, when it reached the Final Four.
Jonathan Holton and Jevon Carter add 14 points apiece for the Mountaineers and Gary Browne scored 10.
Staten, the Mountaineers’ leading scorer, was on the bench for an extended period in the second half and was 4 of 11 from the floor before his pull-up jumper from the lane put the Mountaineers ahead to stay at 62-60 with 2:16 left.
Justin Edmonds’ 3-pointer with 16 seconds left brought Marshall within 67-66. After Staten’s free throws, JP Kambola’s 3-point try for Marshall went off the front of the rim at the buzzer.
Edmonds led Marshall (3-6) with 18 points. Austin Loop added 13, and Ryan Taylor had 11.
West Virginia surpassed 100 points against VMI on its last trip to the Charleston Civic Center nearly three weeks ago. Against Marshall on the same neutral floor, the Mountaineers hit a wall, shooting 39 percent (22 of 57) from the floor and committing a season-high 15 turnovers.
Marshall committed 24 turnovers against West Virginia’s full-court press and attempted 19 fewer shots than West Virginia.
”We have to get better with the ball,” Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni said. ”We aren’t strong and our players hesitate a little still. It’s been a problem we’ve had all year.”
Marshall did put together some solid stretches. Loop sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers around a two-handed dunk by Kambola to give the Thundering Herd their largest lead, 49-41, with 11:26 left in the game.
Marshall made just two field goals the rest of the way.
West Virginia didn’t exactly seize the momentum, though, going 10 of 18 from the line during a 12-2 run over a six-minute stretch for a 53-51 lead with 6 minutes left to set the stage for a close finish.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers earned their fourth consecutive win over their intrastate rival and the eighth in the last nine meetings.
Marshall: The Thundering Herd lost their sixth straight game under D’Antoni, their first-year coach. ”These moral victories have to stop,” he said.
West Virginia and Marshall have met once annually on the basketball court in Charleston since 1992. D’Antoni would like that to change that to include campus sites and two games each season.
He’d like to keep the Charleston game intact and add a second game alternating between campus sites, starting with WVU’s campus in Morgantown.
He challenged WVU to agree with him.
”If they back out now, they’re afraid of us,” D’Antoni said. ”We’re coming back.”
West Virginia: Plays North Carolina State at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
Marshall: Hosts Division II King University on Tuesday night.