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Thundering Herd to face Central Florida in Gasparilla Bowl

— By Bill Cornwell

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — For the second straight year, Marshall is bound for Tampa to play in a bowl game.

The Thundering Herd, second-place finishers in Conference USA’s East Division, will face Central Florida in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl on Monday, Dec. 23. 

Kickoff at Raymond James Stadium is at 2:30 p.m.

The Knights finished second in The American Athletic Conference’s East Division behind Cincinnati.

Marshall (8-4, 6-2) and UCF (9-3, 6-2) played two common opponents this season. The Herd lost to Cincinnati 52-14 and beat Florida Atlantic 36-31, while the Knights lost to the Bearcats 27-24 and beat FAU, 48-14.

Marshall won last year’s Gasparilla Bowl, knocking off South Florida 38-20.

The Herd will enter with an .857 winning percentage (12-2) in all NCAA-sanctioned bowl games, the highest mark nationally among programs that have made at least five appearances.

MU has won seven straight bowl games, a streak that started in 2009 with a 21-17 win over Ohio in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit.

Marshall head coach Doc Holliday is 6-0 in bowl games with the Thundering Herd and will appear in his 28th bowl since entering the coaching ranks. 

The Herd and Knights have played 11 previous times when both teams belonged to both the Mid-American Conference and Conference USA. The Knights lead the series 8-3 and won the last eight meetings after Marshall opened with three straight victories over UCF. 

The last meeting took place in Huntington in 2012, a 54-17 Knights victory.

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Power Rankings: State champs Martinsburg, Bridgeport, Wheeling Central end season No. 1
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West Virginia earns impressive win at No. 10 Mississippi State

The West Virginia women’s basketball team overcame a six-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter Sunday to win at No. 10 Mississippi State, 71-65.

Freshman guard Kirsten Deans poured in a career-high 17 points for the Mountaineers, who improved to 6-1 with their best win of the season.

Trailing 55-49 at the start of the fourth, West Virginia held the Bulldogs to 10 points on 2-of-14 shooting over the final quarter.

Deans hit a three-pointer to break a 64-all tie, and she went 4-for-4 at the free throw line down the stretch to help put the game out of reach.

The Mountaineers got off to a strong start and led 36-28 at halftime, before Mississippi State (8-2) put together its best stretch and outscored WVU 27-13 in the third quarter.

The Bulldogs made 9-of-11 field-goal attempts in the third period, before going cold in the fourth.

While Deans’ career-high effort was instrumental in the win, she was one of four double figure scorers for West Virginia. Kysre Gondrezick added 16 points, while Tynice Martin and Kari Niblack contributed 13 and 12, respectively.

Blessing Ejiofor led West Virginia with 11 rebounds off the bench.

Jordan Danberry had a team-high 19 points in defeat, while teammate Rickea Jackson added 15 points and nine rebounds in the loss.

West Virginia outrebounded Mississippi State, 46-34, including 17-12 on the offensive end.

The Bulldogs, national runner-up in 2017 and 2018, also hurt their cause at the free-throw line. Mississippi State made only 15-of-30 free throws, which was a big factor in its second straight setback.

West Virginia returns to action next Sunday at the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center against Norfolk State.

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Toledo tops Marshall for second time this season

— By David Walsh

TOLEDO, Ohio — Not as explosive as the first meeting, but the Toledo Rockets did enough Sunday to defeat Marshall, 82-72, in front of 3,887 fans at Savage Hall.

Luke Knapke and Willie Jackson both had double-doubles to lead the Mid-American Conference school past the Herd for the second time this season. 

The Rockets won the first meeting, 96-72, on Nov. 10 in Huntington.

The 6-foot-11 Knapke, who had the program’s third triple-double Wednesday night in an 80-65 win over Cleveland State, connected for 33 points and 11 rebounds. Knapke made 12-of-16 shots, including 4-of-6 from the three-point line. 

His output is the most by a Toledo player since Tyrone Kent scored 37 at Xavier in 2008. He’s also the only Toledo player to reach double figures in every game.

Jackson finished with 11 points and 13 boards. Marreon Jackson was Toledo’s No. 2 scorer with 24 points.

Guard Jarrod West led Marshall with 19 points. Jannson Williams and Taevion Kinsey each had 12 points for the Thundering Herd. Mikel Beyers came off the bench for the visitors and netted 13 points and nine rebounds. Both are career bests. Kinsey has had 10 more points in every game.

“We are back to where we were when I first got here,” Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni said after the game. “I know we’re young, but you can’t keep using that as a reason.”

Marshall (2-6) suffered its third straight defeat. Toledo (7-2) extended its winning streak to four.

Toledo, which made 11 first-half treys and 14 overall in the first meeting, has now made nine or more three-pointers in eight of nine games.

 The Rockets are 24-6 vs. the Herd at home all-time and lead the series, 36-23. Their home mark is now 19-2 since the start of the 2018-19 season.

Marshall returns to action Wednesday against Bluefield State. Game time is 7 p.m. at Cam Henderson Center.

The first half went back and forth. Marko Sarenac nailed a three-pointer 2:07 left in the first half to get Marshall within one at 30-29. Toledo got the final four points when Knapke made one of two free throws and Willie Jackson nailed at trey for a 33-29 lead. Herd starter Iran Bennett played just six minutes and Kinsey 10 due to foul trouble.

The second half played out the same close way as the first. Kinsey’s layup with 8:32 left got Marshall within three at 59-56.

Toledo countered with a three by Marreon Jackson, then a layup and three-pointer by Knapke to push the lead to 67-56 and the Rockets kept the upper hand the rest of the way.

The two big statistics in Toledo’s favor came in second-chance points and at the foul line. 

The Rockets had a 10-0 edge in second-chance points in the first half and 18-6 advantage overall. The home side made 23-of-33 free throws to 6-of-9 for the Herd.

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Shepherd holds the line of tuition and fee hikes

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — Officials with Shepherd University in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle have opted to hold the line on tuition and admission fees for the coming academic year. The university’s Board of Governors in November opted to freeze current tuition and fee rates for the next academic year.

“Whether they are resident students or non-residents of West Virginia and want to come to Shepherd and engage in our programs then we want to do what we can to help make that possible for them,” said Shepherd Vice President for Enrollment Management Bill Summers.

The change reverses a growing trend for higher education institutions nationwide where every year brought a general tuition and fee increase. Summers noted they are trying to keep that from happening so often and fear if it continues many will be completely priced out of higher education.

“We assess this year in and year out, so it’s obviously a decision by our board to do this for the upcoming academic year of ’20-’21, we’ll assess it again for ’21-22.” he said.

Officials say it was an effort to provide financial relief to current student, but also to stay competitive with other institutions in the recruiting process.

“We have to do what we can to maintain affordability. We look at this tuition freeze coupled with financial aid and scholarships we offer as a great opportunity for not only current students, but students who are in the selection process for the upcoming fall,” he said.

The freeze does not apply to other fees, like room and board. According to Summers, those are still under evaluation and will be decided at a later date.

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Open enrollment numbers continue declining as period’s end approaches

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Around 6,000 West Virginians have purchased health insurance coverage during the open enrollment period so far.

According to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 5,999 people have selected insurance coverage for 2020 through HealthCare.gov. The open enrollment period began Nov. 1 and continues until Dec. 15.

Jeremy Smith, program director of West Virginia Navigator, said this year’s enrollment trend is similar to 2018 but a drop from the year before.

“In 2017, there were 7,828 people that enrolled (over four weeks),” he said.

By week five of the 2017 enrollment period, 10,070 West Virginians had purchased an insurance plan. A year later, 7,728 people in the state were enrolled. Enrollment between 2017 and 2018 decreased from 27,409 people to 22,599 people, a 17.5% decline.

“We’re still a little concerned that people are a little bit confused on the health insurance marketplace,” Smith said. “They might be confused if the program is still around and what it can do for them.”

Smith said there are multiple factors affecting enrollment numbers: the politicization of health care, a strong economy and the repeal of the individual mandate in 2017.

“People have just turned it off and haven’t paid attention to what options are out there,” Smith said. “When people think of health care, it’s political rather than what’s best for them and their family. We never want to see that.”

This is also the second year the individual mandate is no longer in effect; the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which went into place in December 2017, removed the penalty for not purchasing coverage.

“Unfortunately, a lot of younger, healthier people who used to sign up for health insurance are kind of rolling the dice by going without health insurance,” Smith said. “One major car wreck or surgery can bankrupt you and your family.”

The removal of the individual mandate is the focal point of a lawsuit on former President Barack Obama’s health care law; West Virginia and a coalition of Republican states are suing to nullify the statute. The group cites the provision as crucial for the law to function. If the legal challenge is successful, around 20 million Americans would be at risk of losing their insurance coverage.

The U.S. Department of Justice has sided with the faction of states. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard arguments in July regarding the issue.

But Smith said his organization is not concerned about the lawsuit right now.

“We just tell people not to pay attention to that,” he said.

West Virginia Navigator is a nonprofit organization that provides free consulting on health insurance. Smith joked health insurance can be a “second language,” but people need to be aware of their options.

“As a country as a whole, I think literacy when it comes to health insurance options just isn’t quite what it needs to be to use insurance properly. We really do spend the time to talk to people about those options,” he said.

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and CareSource offer plans in the state; Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is available statewide, while CareSource is available in 44 counties. Smith noted 80% of West Virginians who purchased health insurance through the marketplace in 2018 received a monthly subsidy to cover costs, noting most people remain eligible for the subsidies.

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Manchin continues challenge to FCC data on internet, cellphones

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After the Federal Communications Commission announced the intention to establish a 5G Fund for rural America, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he will continue to contest FCC data until information accurately represents coverage in West Virginia and similar states.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said last week the $9 billion map will replace the planned Mobility Fund Phase II, which would have provided support for expanded 4G LTE services to unserved areas. Commission staff found wireless providers did not submit reliable data, and the body cannot move forward with Mobility Fund Phase II as planned.

Manchin — who challenged the Mobility Fund Phase II for not accurately representing rural communities — said the FCC and carriers should not hold rural communities back.

“We’re going to fight and hold this up until we make sure that we’re acknowledged and that these maps are correct now,” he said. “Areas of West Virginia and other rural areas of this country are going to be treated fair.”

Manchin was the only legislator to participate in the mapping process. Eleven government bodies from around the state also took part in the challenge.

“If you live in rural West Virginia — if you live anywhere in West Virginia — you’re underserved right now, and you’re not going to be able to compete in a 21st-century economy,” he said. “We have to have this. It’s no different than our great grandparents had to have electricity back in the 1930s. That’s where we are.”

Manchin also encouraged the development of co-ops for creating and managing broadband and cellphone services across the state.

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South Charleston marketing firm giving free services to charitable organization

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A West Virginia community charitable organization will start 2020 by receiving free digital marketing services.

A program created five years ago, the Frank Brown Community Partnership operated by South Charleston-based internet marketing firm Bricks Without Straw will select the organization after applications are reviewed at the end of December.

Frank Brown Community Partnership

Frank Brown Community Partnership

The services include website design and social media marketing.

“Many of these groups do not have the funds to invest even minimally and to their marketing and web efforts. We feel this is something we can give back to the community,” Jamie Summers-Brown, President of Bricks Without Straw said.

Summers-Brown said Bricks Without Straw will receive anywhere between 50 to 150 applications from organizations all over the state. Last year’s organization was the Secret Santa Foundation and officials said the success showed.

“This has allowed them to open the doors for people to donate,” Summers-Brown said. “They have all these different levels to sponsor kids and this has made the process to easy for them to tell people how to contribute and get involved with the organization.”

The program will accept applications for assistance until December 31. Applications can be found on the firm’s website. From that point, Summers-Brown said it usually takes 10 to 15 days for review after they are all submitted.

To date, the Frank Brown Partnership Program has given back over $250,000 in free services, according to a release.

Summers-Brown said the giving goes full circle in communities.

“West Virginians are very giving and want to give back. It’s always easy to get people that want to give back and contribute.”

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Game broadcast: 2019 WVSSAC Class AA football championship

WHEELING, W.Va. — Game broadcast from Bridgeport’s 21-14 win over Bluefield in the 2019 WVSSAC Class AA state football championship game.

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Game broadcast: 2019 WVSSAC Class AAA football championship

WHEELING, W.Va. — Game broadcast from Martinsburg’s 49-21 win over Cabell Midland in the 2019 WVSSAC Class AAA state football championship game.

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