CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In another poor-shooting performance by West Virginia (No. 12 ESPN/USA Today, No. 11 AP), the Mountaineers came through at the free-throw line when they needed it most.
Da'Sean Butler scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half and West Virginia went 6 of 8 from the line in the final 18 seconds to preserve a 68-60 win over Marshall on Wednesday night.
Butler, in foul trouble for most of the game, played just 22 minutes and was the key to West Virginia (14-3) maintaining its cool after Marshall nearly overcame a 10-point deficit.
Butler hit three free throws after Tyler Wilkerson's 3-pointer brought the Thundering Herd (15-3) to within 62-20 with 19 seconds left.
"There isn't any question that he's our leader and our best player," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. "Other guys had to step up and they did. We did a pretty good job of guarding them down the stretch."
Freshman Hassan Whiteside scored 18 points for Marshall, but was held to five after halftime. Chris Lutz added 16 points for Marshall, which had its six-game winning streak snapped and lost to West Virginia for the fourth straight year.
West Virginia foiled Marshall's bid for its first victory over a ranked opponent since beating the Mountaineers 58-52 in January 2006.
Marshall entered the night 13th in Division I scoring at 82.4 points per game but played from behind the entire second half and tied its lowest scoring output of the season.
"We put ourselves in a position to win but unfortunately down at the end, we missed some free throws and had three turnovers down the stretch that really hurt us," Marshall coach Donnie Jones said. "We were looking for calls too much and we kind of got caught up in that. We've just got to learn to play at that physicality and finish games."
West Virginia had a 43-26 rebounding advantage and that enabled the Mountaineers to overcome 39 percent shooting from the field, the sixth straight game they've shot below 50 percent. West Virginia shot 24 percent (4 of 17) from 3-point range.
"We had eight or nine shots in the second half right dead in the paint and we didn't make them," Huggins said.
Marshall's turned up the intensity on both ends of the court midway through the second half to tear into a 44-34 deficit.
West Virginia committed a shot-clock violation and Butler was called for an offensive foul. After that, Marshall's Chris Lutz hit a pair of 3 pointers and two free throws over a three-minute stretch, and Wilkerson sank two free throws to bring the Thundering Herd within 48-47 with eight minutes left.
Marshall didn't score again after Wilkerson's 3-pointer with 19 seconds left. Butler was fouled on the inbounds pass and made both free throws to make it a two-possession game.
Shaquille Johnson was called for traveling with 13.5 seconds left and Marshall's comeback bid was done.
"We've got a team of guys that never quits," Wilkerson said. "We were trying to turn up the intensity. That was our plan, to just keep the game at a high level. They just kept playing at a high level, too."
Early in the game Marshall beat West Virginia off the dribble for numerous inside baskets, including four dunks in the first nine minutes. Marshall went to a zone defense early and held the Mountaineers without a field goal over the game's first five minutes.
Led by Whiteside's 13 first-half points, Marshall traded the lead with the Mountaineers until a Bryant 3-pointer put West Virginia ahead to stay, 24-21, with 4:51 left until halftime.
Marshall went the final three minutes of the half without a field goal and the Thundering Herd trailed 33-28 at halftime.
West Virginia, which lost to No. 5 Syracuse by one point at home last Saturday, has another tough test in Ohio State (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) at home on Saturday.
"These last few games have been rough, but I think things are starting to look up and things are turning to good," Butler said. "It's just a matter of execution. Sometimes at the beginning of games, we don't come out focused and teams that we should be taking out early manage to stick around. It gives them the mentality that OK we can play with these people.
"We need to come out Saturday and make the first punch."