The Times West Virginian

January 4, 2014

Fairmont State heads into bulk of MEC schedule

By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Fairmont State University head men’s basketball coach Jerrod Calhoun might be heading back to his home state of Ohio for a two-game road trip, but this trip is for business.

“I think it’s going to be special. Tommy Scales is a Cleveland guy; Thomas Wimbush is a Cleveland guy; Ke’Chaun Lewis is right up the road in Columbus. So, you know, for us it’s going to be special,” Calhoun said. “So I’m sure we’ll pack it full with our Cleveland fans, and it’ll be special going back home.”

The second-year head coach and Cleveland, Ohio, native and his Fairmont State (7-3, 2-2) team are coming off an eight-point loss to No. 2 Bellarmine at the Joe Retton Arena back on Dec. 19. Now, though, the Falcons will head out on the road to take on Urbana (0-8, 0-4) with tipoff slated for 3 p.m.

When your team drops a close game to a top opponent, it can do one of two things. It can demoralize your team or it can boost confidence. Calhoun said the loss did the latter for his squad.

“I think what our guys saw with the Bellarmine game is, you know, we were probably one or two possessions away. We were up by three with three minutes to go in the game and we missed a couple of big shots, but we were a possession or two from beating the No. 2 team in the country,” said Calhoun. “So we’ve got to build on that and get better and understand we’ve got to win games now to get in the NCAA tournament.”

When looking at Urbana, which has yet to win a game this season, one player stands out above the rest. Senior guard Danny Goins is the team’s leader, averaging just under 20 points per game.

“Danny Goins is very, very good. He gets 18.4 (points per game). He’s a catch-and-shoot guy. He can fill it up from anywhere on the floor,” Calhoun said of the Blue Knights’ 6-foot guard from Cincinnati, Ohio.

A winless team can sometimes be overlooked. But Calhoun said his team understands the importance of getting back on track in the Mountain East Conference.

“We’ve talked about going 0-2 on the road in the league. We lost at Glenville. We lost at Charleston. We’ve got to get that taste out of our mouth, and being a young team, we’ve got to get a win,” he said. “There are teams you’re supposed to beat, and those teams are very dangerous. Urbana and Notre Dame have played a very tough schedule, so you can’t take anything away from them. You can’t take any team for granted. They’re college basketball players for a reason. They’ve been in games. There’s just a few possessions that didn’t go their way.”

For the Falcons, injuries have started to take their toll on a team that is already young to begin with. Now, with senior Brendan Cooper still out and with Thomas Wimbush and Caleb Davis’ status in the air, Calhoun will turn to the other players on his team.

Davis, a freshman point guard who has been averaging 12.1 points per game, has been battling an infection and could miss some playing time because of it. But Calhoun is confident that Shammgod Wells can shoulder the responsibility. Wells, also a freshman, is averaging 8.7 points per game but is averaging 15.0 over the past three contests. His minutes have also increased as he’s averaging 28 per game over that stretch.

As a freshman, Wells is using his recent experience to fuel his confidence.

“(The Bellarmine game) gives us a lot of confidence. All year people have been telling us that we’re young and stuff, but we really don’t look at it like that. We look at it as, if we work harder than everybody else, good things will happen,” Wells said. “We have a lot of injuries right now, but that just gives other people a chance to step up and show what they can do, really.”

Calhoun agrees, saying that Wells has started to become more of a leader and has been excelling at understanding his role and expectations on the team.

Another player that Calhoun is expecting to step up down the stretch is redshirt freshman Trevor Andrews-Evans. Evans, like Wells, knows that when the veteran players are battling injuries that means the younger guys must step up.

“We’re in the gym every day, getting better. We’ve just got to step up when we have those older players out. It pushes us closer as a team when adversity strikes us,” the 6-foot-7 forward said.

Coaches and players have agreed that the recent slew of injuries has only made the team stronger and has better prepared them for games down the stretch.

“(We’re) using this negativity, these injuries, as a positive and trying to build our relationships with one another. And I think it’s worked,” Calhoun said.

The Falcons will find out if it has indeed worked when they step onto the court at 3 p.m. today.

Notes: The Lady Falcons (4-3, 2-2) will join the men’s team on their road trip and will tip off just before the men’s game at 1 p.m. ... The Lady Falcons are coming off of a 78-75 loss to West Virginia State back on Dec. 7. ... Five players on the Lady Falcons team are averaging double figures with Makenzie White (15.6) leading the way.

Email Matt Welch at mwelch@timeswv.com or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.