By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian
Oh, what difference a week can make.
When Fairmont State (15-6) was set to take on Glenville State (12-8) last week, both teams were about as deadlocked as two teams could be.
Fairmont State sat a half game behind the Pioneers in the Mountain East Conference standings, with just one win separating the two teams, which had each lost five games in the conference.
Now, though, the Falcons come into tonight’s 7:30 p.m. matchup promoting a whiteout against the Pioneers at Joe Retton Arena riding a four-game winning streak to its counterpart’s two-game losing streak.
The streak has hoisted the Falcons into third place in the MEC, putting space between themselves and Glenville that wasn’t there a mere week ago.
“With our team being young, we’re finding ways to win,” Fairmont State coach Jerrod Calhoun said of this past week’s action.
Calhoun’s Falcons have found ways to come from behind on two occasions this past week, picking up wins over Urbana and Notre Dame College at home. The second-year head coach said that from the beginning of the season until now, the team has found more ways to win games more decisively on the road as opposed to playing with energy at home.
“It seems we’ve been a better road team lately,” Calhoun explained. “These last two games (at home) have been very, very close. But any time you can play in close games and win, it gives your team experience.”
With the two wins, the Falcons have proved that they are still feeling each other out, a direct result, Calhoun said, of the injuries his team faced at the beginning of the season.
“The one frustrating thing is we haven’t had a full team,” Calhoun said. “It’s hard to practice when you don’t have guys out there.”
Senior swingman Brendan Cooper, who was out most of the season with a hand injury, has been inserted back in the lineup and has impacted quite a bit. Though he has been coming off of the bench, the 6-foot-7 playmaker has been learning to play better with those who have taken over in his absence. That key player being Thomas Wimbush.
While Cooper was out, Wimbush and sophomore guard Stevie Browning carried the load. But Saturday night when Browning scored a season-low four points, it was Wimbush and Cooper who made a connection and got the job done in a 78-74 win over Notre Dame College.
“The two wing players, Thomas and Coop, are learning to play with each other,” said Calhoun of the duo’s performance, which saw them score 45 of the team’s 48 points Saturday night.
Those two, and Browning, will need to keep their strong play going if the Falcons want to overcome three strong opponents for the week, starting with Glenville tonight.
Calhoun knows that this week could seal the deal on his team’s season or give them hope for March.
“This is pretty much a make-or-break week for us,” he said. “It’s a crucial two weeks if we want to make it to the NCAAs with Glenville, then traveling to Jesuit and hosting West Lib. Our guys know how big this is.”
With just seven games left in the season, every win is crucial.
NOTES: Tonight’s game is set to be a whiteout. Coaches and officials encourage FSU fans to wear white to create a strong atmosphere ... The Lady Falcons (12-6) will also host Glenville State (20-2), which is ranked 10th in the nation, tonight at 5:30 p.m. at Joe Retton Arena ... Glenville’s team features two Marion County natives in Paige Tuttle and Jessica Parsons ... Tuttle, a sophomore, averages 3.2 points per game while Parsons, a senior, averages 5.3 points per game but leads the team in minutes, averaging 21.0 minutes per contest ... Parsons suffered a knee injury in high school before playing at Fairmont State for two years and will return to Fairmont for the last time in her collegiate career tonight.
Email Matt Welch at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.