Times West Virginian
WEST LIBERTY —
For a lot of teams West Liberty University’s ASRC is a tough place to play.
For Fairmont State’s Lady Falcons it’s fast becoming a second home.
FSU used a stingy defense and an efficient offense to record its third straight win over the Lady Hilltoppers on their home court, 85-75, here Saturday afternoon.
The victory, Fairmont’s second in a row, improved the Lady Falcons to 7-5 overall and to 5-4 in the Mountain East Conference. With the win FSU moved into sixth place in the 12-team league standings.
West Liberty, on the other hand, fell to 8-8 overall and to 5-5 in the league. The Lady Hilltoppers had knocked off No. 12 and league-leading Glenville State earlier this week at the ASRC.
“If ever there was a game where I think the players won the game this was the game,” said FSU coach Steve McDonald. “We ran our motion offense for most of the second half and I think we maybe only had about two bad possessions. In that offense it’s incumbent upon the players to make decisions and they made some good ones today.
“I thought where we turned the game in our favor in the second half was where we were making some excellent decisions on backdoor cuts and getting some layups. I’m thrilled for the kids. Now, hopefully we can get on a little bit of a run.”
Fairmont led most of the way Saturday but took control of the contest for good during a five-minute span midway through the second half when freshman Emily Puskarich came off the bench and scored nine of her 12 points to help key a 14-2 FSU run which extended the Lady Falcons’ lead from 54-51 to 68-53 with 6:52 left to play.
“I thought we did a great job offensively today,” said FSU sophomore point guard Makenzie White, who led her team with 22 points, five rebounds, six assists and four steals. “They were really over playing us and we did a good job of moving and getting backdoor layups.
“When we didn’t get the backcuts, Emily Puskarich came in and hit some big step-back threes for us which really helped us take control of the game. Everyone got involved today and everyone played well. That was a key for us.”
West Liberty, which normally is a good shooting team and shoots especially well from 3-point range, struggled the entire afternoon to find its stroke. The Lady Hilltoppers shot just 34 percent from the field (23-of-67), including just 6-of-27 from behind the 3-point line (22.0 percent).
“Kid have to step up,” said veteran West Liberty coach Lynn Ullom. “We just have a real lack of focus and it’s in all areas of the game. When they decide to get focused then they’ll start making shots. When you shoot 34 percent it’s hard to win, but all of that aside we lost today because we can’t guard anybody.”
Down the stretch when West Liberty attempted to make a comeback on FSU the Lady Falcons’ Hallie Gunnoe kept the Lady Hilltoppers at bay by going 7-of-8 at the free throw line in the final 3:18. Gunnoe finished with 16 points.
“We definitely needed to make those foul shots because they’re a good shooting team and they got back to within seven or eight a few times late,” said Gunnoe. “It felt good for me to go 7-of-8, but I should’ve went 8-of-8. I hated missing that one. Still, this was a good win for us on the road and now we’ve won two in a row so hopefully we can get on a little roll now.”
White, Gunnoe and Puskarich were joined in double figures by Hailey Garrett, who finished with 10 points, six of which came in the second half. Emily Lohr added nine points, Brianna Innocent chipped in eight and Deidra Combs added six points and a career-high 12 rebounds.
West Liberty was paced by Kieara Simpson’s big double-double outing. Simpson scored a career-high 24 points and grabbed a game-high 19 rebounds. The Lady Hilltoppers also got 16 points from Liz Flowers and 10 from Emily Bucon.
FSU returns to action Thursday at 5:30 p.m. when it visits Shepherd University. The Lady Falcons will be back home Saturday, Jan. 25 when they host Charleston at 2 p.m. at the Joe Retton Arena.