Harrison County and Notre Dame's Own Jarrod West Talks about Marshall's Trip to NCAA Tournament

By Jeff Toquinto on March 13, 2018 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

At this time last year, Jarrod West was getting ready to head to Charleston for the Class A state basketball tournament where he was winning his first (and Notre Dame High School’s first) state championship. This year, he’s heading to a bigger tournament – the NCAA.
 
The starting point guard for Marshall was on the floor when the Thundering Herd toppled Western Kentucky by a 67-66 score at Ford Center at the Star in Frisco Texas. The win came Saturday in the championship game of the Conference USA tournament and gave the Herd an automatic bid in the NCAA field of 68.
 
“I look back at last year and, being a senior and being there before, I was comfortable with that setting and knew what I needed to do to win,” said West. “The big difference this year is that this is all new to me. It’s new to everyone.”
 
West’s words aren’t hyperbole. The experience is new to every player and coach on the team and to a few generations of Marshall followers as the team hasn’t made it to the tournament since 1987 – a stretch of 31 years.
 
“I think that’s what makes it a little bit more enjoyable for everyone is that there has been a lot of people waiting for us to get back to the NCAA tournament. When you think about it, 31 years is a long time,” said West, who was more than a decade way from even being born when it took place. “To know all of the supporters who are with this program year in and year out get to see Marshall back in the tournament is rewarding. I’m glad the wait is over.”
 
Getting to the finish line proved to be difficult. The game appeared to be over at the 3:40 mark when a Jon Elmore 3-point basket put MU up 67-55. Then, things got interesting as Marshall would not score again.
 
The Hilltoppers scored the next 11 points to cut it to 67-66. Even more troubling was that WKU got off two shots in the final 20 seconds, but were off the mark. Eventually, West would inbound the ball with under 10 seconds to go and the Herd ran out the clock to secure the win.
 
“It was stressful and, looking back, it was kind of eerie to me personally because it was almost the exact same situation I was in as a sophomore at Notre Dame. We were up 13 points with two minutes to go and missed shots and had turnovers and we lost to a higher-seeded team that went on to win it all,” said West. “I actually thought about that after the game, but when you win it’s a little easier to take the game being close like that.”
 
With the win, Marshall earned the No. 13 seed in the East Region. The Herd will face No. 4 Wichita State Friday in San Diego. The game will be aired live on TNT at 1:30 p.m.
 
“Wichita State is a good team, a good school and a school with tradition … They’ve won NCAA tournament games and have players with experience,” West said. “What we have right now that I like are players with confidence.”
 
West said he’s heard talk from many commentators calling this one of the best first round games. He said that adds to the excitement.
 
“I think we’re all excited, but it’s important to come off the high of what happened and focus in on what’s next,” said West. “Listening to the commentary and watching everything around the tournament is great, but we’ve got to make the most of this opportunity.”
 
West said he was thrilled with the greeting the team received upon returning to Huntington. He’s also been pleased all season with the support he’s had from back home and from the Marshall faithful.
 
“The people supporting me back in high school are still supporting me. I’ve had people show up at games all over and I get calls, texts and feedback on social media,” he said. “You add that to the support here at Marshall and the fans that show up and travel and this entire season has been great. It just makes you want to win more for them.”
 
The winner of the Marshall-Wichita State game will face the winner of the West Virginia University-Murray State contest. The game will be take place Sunday in San Diego.
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Jarrod West posing for a photo after Saturday's win, while in the bottom photo West greets Bridgeport High School alum and long-time friend J.T. Harris who managed to take in a Herd game earlier this year. Photos courtesy of Amber West's Facebook page.


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