By Duane Cochran
Times West Virginian
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.
The Lady Falcons willingly obliged handing out 17 assists on 32 field goals en route to an impressive 75-49 romp over the Lady Bobcats.
“Our emphasis is to always share the basketball, but today there was even more of an emphasis on that because at IUP it wasn't pretty,” said FSU sophomore guard Makenzie White, who finished with 14 points, a game-high six assists, six rebounds and four steals. “We were too individualistic. When one person couldn't get it going another person felt like they needed to take over instead of sharing the ball and that's probably one of the big reasons we lost that game. Today we shared it and look at the result.”
The win improved the Lady Falcons to 3-1 overall and to 1-0 in the MEC. West Virginia Wesleyan fell to 1-2 overall and to 0-1 in the league.
Fairmont took control of the game right from the get-go racing to a double digit lead less than 10 minutes into the contest. By halftime the advantage had ballooned to 14 at 37-23.
In the first seven minutes of the second half FSU turned up its defensive intensity and ended any doubt as to the game's outcome. Fairmont held Wesleyan scoreless for the first 7:42 of the second half as it built a 49-23 lead.
“What I was very pleased about was we talked to our team about the first five minutes of the second half and how against our last opponent (IUP) we felt like they took the game to us during the span and how we wanted to take it to our opponent today,” said McDonald. “Any time you can do that you set a tone and today we certainly did that. I really liked our defensive effort. That's why I think we were able to win today.
“As far sharing the ball, I honestly think today we might have gone a little overboard sharing it, but that's a good thing. Up until today we didn't think we were doing that very well. Today we probably shared it a bit too much and passed up some open shots, but that's okay. I'll take it. Right now we're searching for that perfect middle ground. We'll get there.”
Junior guard Hallie Gunnoe continued her impressive play for the Lady Falcons. She finished with a double-double scoring a game-high 19 points and grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds. She also dished out five assists in 40 full minutes of action.
“Hallie Gunnoe kicked butt today,” said White. “I mean I bet I've told her four times already how well she played. She just did a great job for us.”
Gunnoe says her performance in the victory was a direct result of the Lady Falcons' unselfish play.
“You know we only have a few returning players and I just feel like I need to step up for the team,” said Gunnoe. “Today, I think we played really well as a team. My good game came as a result of passes from other players and us sharing the basketball.
“With Tess (Zufall) out we have a limited rotation so we all need to step up and I feel like we did that today. The chemistry was there. The effort was there and we got a nice win.”
Zufall, Fairmont's junior point guard, suffered a knee injury against IUP and her ability to return this season is questionable.
Junior forward Hailey Garrett also finished with a double-double performance for the Lady Falcons Saturday. She ended up with 16 points and 10 boards. FSU also got six points from true freshman guard Deidra Coombs, six points and 11 rebounds from Brianna Innocent and five points from Emily Lohr.
West Virginia Wesleyan, which was held to a 24.2 percent shooting performance from the field (15-of-62) and got out-rebounded in the loss 62-39, was led by Brittany Williams, who finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds and Kacey Johnson, who chipped in 11 points.
Fairmont State returns to action Monday when it visits powerful Glenville State for a 5:30 p.m. game at the Lilly Gymnasium.