By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian
Fairmont State (6-2) may be going in a little blind to its game with Ohio Eastern at 7 p.m. today at Joe Retton Arena, but the Falcons have a clear cut goal in mind.
The Falcons, who are coming off a nine-day break after beating West Virginia State, 107-89, are getting some key pieces added to their lineup tonight.
Tommy Scales and Otar Pkhakadze will both be inserted into the rotation in hopes of preparing for No. 2 Bellarmine.
“Tommy’s had some issues and he’s been cleared by the doctors finally, and Otar is eligible now,” Fairmont State head coach Jerrod Calhoun said. “It’ll give us a great opportunity to get these guys ready for Bellarmine.”
Scales, a 6-foot-8 sophomore forward, has played in just the first three games of the season but Calhoun expects him to make an impact in the lineup.
“Scales is a good post player. He’ll get some solid minutes out there on the front line,” Calhoun said of Scales. “It gives us a guy who really knows the system.”
The sophomore forward started and scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds last season against Ohio Eastern as a freshman. He averaged 8.2 minutes per game last season to go with his 2.9 points and 2.4 rebounds. He has eight points in three games this season.
Pkhakadze is a 6-foot-2 guard whom Calhoun is excited about putting in the mix now that he’s eligible for the second semester after transferring in to FSU last season.
“Otar practiced all last year with us (after transferring),” Calhoun said. “He’s a good combo guard who can really shoot it. He’s a European-type player who, I think, will be really fun to watch.”
Besides Scales and Pkhakadze, Calhoun will hope to get as many guys on the court as he can against Ohio Eastern in preparation for hosting the No. 2 team in the country later in the week.
With senior forward Brendan Cooper out with injury, players like Stevie Browning and Thomas Wimbush will have to shuttle the load.
Browning has been doing it all year, averaging 17.1 points per game this season, including three games over 20 points with two of those games wins at home.
Wimbush, on the other hand, has been coming along nicely as of late, scoring 21 and 23 points in his last two games.
“He’s done a great job,” Calhoun said of the 6-foot-7 redshirt freshman. “He’s really kind of picked up where Coop was at.”
Cooper, who has missed the past two games with injury, was averaging 14.0 points before going down. Wimbush is averaging 22.0 points over those past two games without Cooper.
Even though the Falcons haven’t seen much of Ohio Eastern on film, Calhoun hopes that the previous nine-day break has helped his team to get focused on the week ahead.
“Any time you can get seven practices, it’s good,” he said. “We’re just trying to get better in all facets of the game and have better execution. Tomorrow will be better because they’re in a game setting with people in the crowd. Our emphasis will really be on the defensive side, getting ready for Bellarmine.”
Calhoun hopes to empty the bench as much as possible in hopes of getting more players experience in case of injuries and to keep fresh legs on the court against top teams down the road.
“We want to get nine of 11 guys on the court to get ready for Thursday,” Calhoun said. “We really want to push the tempo to help these guys get their rhythm back.”
The Falcons hope that their long break, mixed with final exams last week, gave them much-needed time to re-focus their minds on the coming week’s action.
Email Matt Welch at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.