HUNTINGTON — They are natural-born enemies.
Marshall University’s Jarrod West and UTSA’s Jhivvan Jackson have no choice but to be adversaries.
It’s in their DNA.
Jackson never saw a shot he didn’t like and West never saw a shooter he didn’t want to stop. If they were members of the animal kingdom, Jackson would be a cobra pitted against a mongoose named West.
Yes, it’s a lethal matchup.
That will be the game within the game when the Thundering Herd plays the Roadrunners at 4 p.m. Saturday in pod play at the Convocation Center in San Antonio.
“It’s a fun challenge,” said West, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound junior. “First of all, we’re in the same class [junior], so we came in together. Obviously, he’s very offensive-minded and I’m a defensive-minded guy.
“He leads the league in scoring and I lead the league in steals. You know? We’re basically the same size, too. I enjoy the challenge for sure.”
And what a challenge it is.
The slightly built 6-0, 170-pound Jackson is the second-leading scorer in NCAA basketball with a 26.9-point average. He also ranks No. 3 in made 3-pointers per game with 3.77. Jackson also leads Conference USA in 3-point field goals (113) and made free throws (146) while shooting .849 from the foul line.
But the hardest part of guarding Jackson?
He has taken 648 shots in 29 games, which means Jackson fires up 22.4 attempts per game.
“It’s tough because he’s a high-volume shooter,” said West. “That’s the hardest part about guarding him. He’ll shoot from wherever whenever. And their coach won’t say anything to him about it, whether he makes it or misses.”
Jackson has a free rein.
“Exactly,” said West. “He’s got the ultimate green light and that’s the hardest part, really. You can push him out and try to deny him and stuff ... make him catch it close to half-court. And he’ll still shoot it from there.
“He’s good. He’s good at making shots, making tough shots. He knows how to get his shot off. But I think the toughest thing about it is just knowing he’s going to shoot a lot of shots.
“I feel like we did a good job on him at their place, really. I mean, he was 10 for 28, 25 points.”
In Marshall’s 72-63 loss at UTSA on Feb. 13, Jackson was 10 of 28 from the floor while committing five turnovers in 35 minutes.
That’s a lot of shots. Do the math and Jackson shot only 35.7 percent from the floor. More to the point — or 3-point, in this case — Jackson was only 1 of 8 on treys (12.5 percent).
Yet, it still was frustrating for West.
“When I looked up and saw he had 25 [points],” said West, “it kind of made me mad. It frustrated me. But at the same time, when I looked at the stat line in his box score, I wasn’t as frustrated.
“I just try to make it hard for him. Contest all of his shots. Try to make it hard from the catch and hard to get open. That’s the key. I feel like if you limit his open shots, you are doing your job pretty much. Every shot he takes, you’ve got to make it tough.”
West won the battle, but Jackson won the war.
A mongoose named Jarrod wants to win both.