The Times West Virginian

January 13, 2014

FSU looks to finish homestand, 3-0, as Falcons host UVa-Wise

By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — On a night where Fairmont State University is starting their Box of Sunshine Drive to benefit the Soup Opera of Fairmont, the Falcons are hoping to finish up some home cooking of their own as they host UVa-Wise at Joe Retton Arena for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff, directly after the women’s game at 5:30 p.m.

Fairmont State won its previous two home games, beating Wheeling Jesuit and Concord in close games, but to finish the stretch with a 3-0 record is something head coach Jerrod Calhoun says is critical.

“It’s huge,” Calhoun said. “It’s imperative that we win all three if we’re going to get into the NCAA tournament.”

The Falcons currently sit at 8-1 at Joe Retton Arena and are 10-3 overall, including 5-2 now in the Mountain East Conference. Calhoun said that with two of the team’s three losses coming on the road, winning at home is the best thing that the team could do to help its case.

To finish the three-game, five-day stretch of games with a perfect record, the Falcons will need to beat UVa-Wise, who is 6-6 overall, 3-5 in the MEC and just 2-4 on the road.

The Falcons have won five of their last six contests, while the Cavaliers have dropped six of their last eight after starting out 4-0.

But Calhoun said his team can’t overlook UVa-Wise just because of their recent record.

“These teams are dangerous,” said Calhoun. “They really show signs of being a very good team, but at times they struggle a little bit. Wise is a little bit different than Concord. They have the interior. And once again it’s a 24-hour span of trying to get ready.”

The Cavaliers, though, have one of the best players in the conference in Deon Boyce.

Boyce, a 6-foot-6 senior forward, is averaging a double-double of 16.9 points and 14.6 rebounds per game, nearly averaging nine defensive rebounds per game.

“The big kid is absolutely phenomenal. He had 35 and 20 (Thursday) night. I think he’s one of the top two or three bigs in the league,” Calhoun said of Boyce. “He’s the best rebounder in our league. He’s a very undervalued player. He’s a relentless rebounder.

“Anyone who can go into a game and get 20, 25 rebounds in a game is a tough kid. That’s probably the biggest compliment I can give to him. I think he’s a tough competitor, a fierce competitor and a guy you’d love to have on your team. Those guys are very tough to go against.”

As for how Calhoun and the Falcons plan to defend Boyce, the gameplan is simple: limit touches.

“You’ve got to switch and have very heavy ball pressure,” the second-year head coach said. “You can’t let him catch the ball where he’s good, and he’s good around the basket, so you got to try to push him out so the entries aren’t as easy.”

Besides Boyce, the Cavaliers have three guys in double figures, two of whom are guards. But that’s something the Falcons have seen a lot of these past few days and something Calhoun thinks his team can defend well.

For FSU, playing through injuries and adversity will once again be the key.

Calhoun said that the team has really come together the past few weeks and his message to them has been the same all season.

“They’re just working.They’re listening better,” Calhoun said. “I think what they did from high school to get them to college won’t get them where they need to go in college. Most kids think they worked really hard but they don’t understand that they have to work that much harder, not only on the court but off the court studying the game and studying the opponents.”

The Falcons will need to get the usual production from sophomore guard Stevie Browning, who is averaging an even 18.0 points per game this season, as well as the excelled play from Thomas Wimbush and Shammgod Wells, who have stepped up nicely as of late.

NOTES: For the Box of Sunshine Drive, FSU officials have encouraged fans to bring items such as travel-size shampoo, conditioner, soap, shaving cream, razors, toothpaste, toothbrushes and other personal hygiene products for the Soup Opera of Fairmont ... The Lady Falcons (5-5, 3-4 MEC) will host UVa-Wise (7-5, 3-5 MEC) at Joe Retton Arena just before the men’s game at 5:30 p.m ... The Lady Falcons are coming off of a 67-64 loss to Concord.

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