In the Top 25 for the first time this season, West Virginia is making the kind of progress coach Bob Huggins has been waiting to see.
The 21st-ranked Mountaineers look for a fifth consecutive victory while trying to continue their success against in-state foe Marshall in Wednesday night's annual Capital Classic in Charleston, W. Va.
With only two full-time starters back from last season's national semifinalist squad, West Virginia (12-4) grappled with inconsistency before embarking on its season-high winning stretch.
Improved defensive play has keyed the Mountaineers' current run, as they've allowed an average of 62.8 points after giving up 67.8 through the first 12 contests.
"We're getting better," Huggins told the school's official website. "We better be getting better. That's what you want."
The Mountaineers held then-No. 8 Purdue 11 points below its season average in a 68-64 home win Sunday. Though West Virginia failed to score 70 points for the third time in four games, it outrebounded the Boilermakers 37-29 and benefited from a late 18-6 run.
"We've never won pretty in big games," said guard Joe Mazzulla, who had 10 points. "We've always had to grind it out. We know that our offense isn't always going to be there, but our defense and rebounding will."
Kevin Jones had 17 points with nine rebounds while John Flowers added 15, one game after scoring 24 in a 93-63 victory over Providence on Thursday.
The win over Purdue came two games after a 65-59 victory at then-No. 13 Georgetown on Jan. 8.
"It's good for us," Huggins said of the latest victory. "The more games you play like this the more you become accustomed to them.
"I told them in there, everybody is going to be giddy about this win but the truth of the matter is if we don't take care of our business on Wednesday this one doesn't mean anything."
West Virginia has been able to do that against Marshall (12-5), winning four straight and 11 of 14 in the series since the start of the 1996-97 season.
Truck Bryant scored 14 points and Jones added 13 as the Mountaineers overcame a 38.6 percent shooting effort in last season's 68-60 win over Marshall. The Thundering Herd have shot 41.3 percent during their four-game skid against the Mountaineers.
Marshall shot 37.0 percent in a 77-61 loss at Memphis in Conference USA play Saturday. The Tigers made 50.9 percent of their shots, the second-highest percentage against the Thundering Herd this season.
"We were on our heels way too much," first-year Marshall coach Tom Herrion said. "Obviously, that is thoroughly disappointing and unacceptable."
DeAndre Kane scored 16 points and backcourt mate Damier Pitts added 14 for Marshall.
Pitts has averaged a team-leading 15.4 points since missing the first nine games while he regained satisfactory academic standing. However, the junior guard has totaled 15 on 6-of-17 shooting in two games versus West Virginia.
Marshall has lost eight straight against Top 25 opponents since a 58-52 win over the ninth-ranked Mountaineers on Jan. 25, 2006.