By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian
After being dealt its first loss of the season on Monday, Fairmont State (4-1, 1-1) is looking to get back on track when it welcomes WVU Tech (8-2) to Joe Retton Arena today at 1 p.m.
Having nearly a week to move on from the 94-87 loss on the road to Glenville State, head coach Jerrod Calhoun and the Falcons are hoping to slow down Tech’s offense and get back to their winning ways.
“We showed the guys a lot of film from the Glenville game and really looked at our mistakes,” Calhoun said. “Not one guy can be blamed for that. Glenville put up a lot of points on us, and that’s not our nature.”
Both teams are coming off a loss, and both of Tech’s losses this season have come on the road, a stat that could bode well for Calhoun and the Falcons. The Falcons are 3-0 on their home court this season, beating teams by a combined score of 244-213.
“We played these guys last year at our house and they beat us,” Calhoun said of his team’s opponent. “But we’ve had four days to prepare.”
WVU Tech, a high-scoring team in the NAIA, is averaging 96.7 points per game this season — an impressive number when you compare it to the 76.3 points they’re allowing on the year.
“They’re a real fast-paced team,” said Calhoun. “They like to get out in transition and score a lot of points. They’re coming in having played 10 games. They’re battle-tested.”
Led by senior guard Brandon Burngraff, who scored 23 points in last seasons’ 87-83 win over FSU, the Golden Bears are shooting just over 50 percent from the floor and just over 40 percent from behind the arc. Burngraff himself is averaging 20.0 points per game and is the team’s premier 3-point shooter.
“He’s one of the best shooters not only in the NAIA but in the state,” Calhoun said of Burngraff. “He’s a great catch-and-shoot guy. We’re going to have to know where he is on the court at all times.”
Down low, the Golden Bears let junior Jauries Thomas do most of the work. The 6-foot-6 forward is averaging 16.0 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. He’s shooting over 60 percent from the floor and cleans up the boards nicely, especially on defense.
“He gets a double-double nearly every time out. He does a good job boxing out, so we’ll have to put a body on him,” the coach said.
The Falcons, however, have playmakers in their own right.
Guard Stevie Browning is leading the team, averaging 18.0 points per game and has a solid stroke from the outside. To complement him, senior Brendan Cooper has been making plays all over the court. The utility man is nearly averaging a double-double with 12.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per contest.
But behind them, Calhoun has two freshmen point guards leading the charge who have started to come into their own on this Falcons team.
Caleb Davis and Shammgod Wells have both stepped up in key spots this season for Calhoun.
“I think they’re starting to understand how to work in college,” Calhoun said of the freshmen. “They’re understanding the difference between college and high school. And Tommy Wimbush is also playing really well. He’s one of the only guys who comes in and works hard every day in practice, and that’s why he’s been playing a lot.”
While WVU Tech may be considered a lesser opponent by some, coach Calhoun and his team aren’t taking any chances.
“We’re not taking them lightly,” Calhoun said of the matchup. “Since we’re on a break we were allowed to have as many practices as we want, so we’ve shown the guys a lot of film and been having doubles. I think we’re going to come out and really play angry.”
Email Matt Welch at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.