WEST LIBERTY —
Fairmont State University’s men’s basketball team showed absolutely no signs of rust after a two-week layoff in the opening round of the annual NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional here Saturday evening at West Liberty University’s ASRC.
The fourth-seeded Falcons shot a scorching 69 percent (20-of-29) from the field in the first half, including a perfect 6-of-6 showing from 3-point range, to open a commanding 54-27 halftime lead over fifth-seeded Livingstone (N.C.) College en route to a 91-73 victory.
The win allows FSU, which improved to 23-8, to advance past the opening round of the national tournament for the first time since 1999 and sets up a fourth and final showdown tonight at 7:30 p.m. against No. 1 ranked West Liberty (31-1) for a spot in the regional title game Tuesday evening. The top-seeded Hilltoppers rolled past eighth-seeded Bowie State (Md.) University, 114-82.
West Liberty, which is the two-time defending champion in the Atlantic Regional, has won all three of its previous meetings with FSU this season. The first was by an 82-77 score back on Jan. 17, the second by a 103-99 margin on Feb. 16 and the last was a 92-78 victory in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament’s championship game just over two week ago.
“I think our guys want it real bad,” said Fairmont coach Jerrod Calhoun about another shot at West Liberty. “Any time you lose to a team three times it’s very frustrating not only as a staff when you watch tape and try to make adjustments, but I also think it wears on the players.
“This time of year it’s win or go home, so the pressure is really not on us. We’ve kind of surprised everybody with what we’ve done this year turning this thing around. We’ll come out loose and our guys will play hard. They’re the No. 1 team in the country which has beaten us three times, so we’re not going to come in here Sunday with any pressure on our backs at all.”
Saturday’s first-half performance against Livingstone was arguably Fairmont’s best half of basketball of the season. The Falcons, led by Isaiah Hill, Brendan Cooper, Malik Stith, Isaac Thornton and Ke’chaun Lewis, came out on fire. Those five players combined to hit eight of their first nine shots to help Fairmont race to an 18-3 lead less than eight minutes into the contest.
“We got off to a great start,” said Calhoun. “Our plan was to try to take them out of their offense because when they run offense they’re a really good team. They run a lot of good sets. Any time our team has seven days to get ready for a team they do a great job. We really stuck to the scouting report. We wanted to get out and get easy baskets, and I thought our kids did a great job of that early in the game.
“When we get off to good starts our bench gets into the game and I really think our two freshmen, Stevie Browning and Tommy Scales, had great games for us. Stevie did a great job of rebounding the ball and Tommy probably had his best game of the season.”
Browning finished with nine points and a team-high eight rebounds, while Scales scored 14 points and grabbed seven boards.
“My performance was all right,” said Scales. “There were ups and downs. They’re a big team and they’re good, but God just blessed us with a win. We worked hard tonight and got it done.”
Hill, who has battled foul trouble in recent games for FSU, stayed on the floor last night and led the Falcons with 16 points and seven rebounds. Nine of his points came in the first 10:32 as FSU raced to a 26-9 lead. Fairmont also got 13 points from Chase Morgan and 10 from Thornton.
“It felt good to go out there and help my team win tonight,” said Hill. “They looked for me and I finished. I’m thankful for that. I just went out there and played aggressive.”
Fairmont finished the opening half with 15 assists on its 20 field goals and ended up out-rebounding the taller Blue Bears for the game, 42-31.
“Our main focus coming into the game was defense and rebounding,” said Thornton. “Coach put a big emphasis on getting on the glass. We played pretty good on the defensive end and I think we did a great job, for the most part, on the boards.”
Livingstone, which was making its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, finishes the season at 22-7. The Blue Bears, who outscored FSU 46-37 in the second half, were led by Jody Hill’s 18 points. Livingstone also got 12 points from Anthony Welch, 11 from leading scorer Mark Thomas, who was held scoreless until the 2:47 mark of the opening half, and 10 points from Omar Ford-Bey.
In other opening-round action Saturday in the Atlantic Regional third-seeded Indiana (Pa.) University eliminated sixth-seeded East Stroudsburg (Pa.) University, 76-68, and seventh-seeded Slippery Rock (Pa.) University upended second-seeded Winston-Salem State (N.C.) University, 69-67. IUP and Slippery Rock will meet in Sunday’s first semifinal round contest at 5 p.m. at the ASRC.
Hot-shooting Falcons face No. 1 West Liberty in regional semifinals
WEST LIBERTY —
- Fairmont State Sports
Lady Falcons rally past UC in OT
It took an extra five minutes ,but Fairmont State’s Lady Falcons accomplished their goal Thursday evening at the Eddie King Gymnasium.
FSU outscored the University of Charleston 12-9 in overtime to record a wild 78-75 Mountain East Conference victory.
Charleston holds off FSU, 75-71
An undermanned Fairmont State University men’s basketball team took the University of Charleston to the wire here Thursday night before falling 75-71 at the Eddie King Gymnasium.
The loss drops the Falcons to 5-2 overall and to 1-2 in the Mountain East Conference. Charleston, meanwhile, improved to 5-1 overall and to 2-1 in the league.
FSU set for important MEC game
While their classmates were home for Thanksgiving break feasting on turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie, the Fairmont State University basketball team was taking second helpings of something else: basketball practice.
FSU names McGinnis first women’s soccer coach
After sorting through about 90 applications, Fairmont State Director of Athletics Tim McNeely announced Tuesday that Patrick McGinnis has been named the Falcons’ first-ever women’s soccer coach.
This isn’t the first time McGinnis will be building a program from the ground up.
FSU takes out frustrations in 91-75 romp: PHOTOS
There’s little doubt second-year Fairmont State men’s basketball coach Jerrod Calhoun was angered by his team’s lackluster performance Monday in a 94-87 road loss to Glenville State.
Falcons look to rebound against WVU Tech
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.
Pioneers hand Falcons first setback, 94-87
Fairmont State dug itself an early hole it could never get out of and as a result suffered its first setback of the 2013-14 season Monday night against a charged-up Glenville State team at the Lilly Gymnasium.
GSC nips Lady Falcons on last-second three, 111-110
Glenville State’s Ginny Mills drained a 3-point field goal with three seconds remaining to help the Lady Pioneers rally for a wild 111-110 victory over visiting Fairmont State on Monday evening at the Lilly Gymnasium.
Smothering defense helps FSU remain perfect: PHOTOS
Heading into its Mountain East Conference opener with visiting West Virginia Wesleyan Saturday afternoon at the Joe Retton Arena unbeaten Fairmont State knew exactly what it had to do to shut down the Bobcats.
And the Falcons did it to near perfection in the first half as they cruised to their fourth straight victory, 70-57.
Unselfish Lady Falcons roll past Bobcats, 75-42
Coming off of its first loss of the season, a 62-46 setback against Indiana (Pa.) University last week, veteran Fairmont State women's basketball coach Steve McDonald had a simple but clear message for his team heading into Saturday afternoon's Mountain East Conference opener with West Virginia Wesleyan at the Joe Retton Arena: Share the basketball.
- More Fairmont State Sports Headlines
- Lady Falcons rally past UC in OT