By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian
When Fairmont State’s men’s basketball team opens conference play today at Joe Retton Arena at 4 p.m., coach Jerrod Calhoun is asking for a “white out.”
While the first 500 fans to the arena will receive a free T-shirt, all fans are encouraged to wear their white when the Falcons take on West Virginia Wesleyan in the team’s first conference game.
Coach Calhoun believes there are many similarities between the two teams, which will make for a great start to conference play.
“They play like us,” Calhoun said. “They play people.”
Calhoun referenced Wesleyan’s schedule, noting several tough road games to start the season including games at Division I Buffalo and IUP, a top-10 school in Division II.
“Both teams are battle-tested,” said Calhoun of the matchup. “We have similar beliefs, and both teams are getting better.”
Another similarity between the two teams is their offensive style.
Both teams shoot high-percentage shots and use jump shots to win games, Calhoun said.
The Bobcats, coached by Patrick Beilein, are 2-2 on the season coming into the game.
“They use the jump shot and screening action to create shots. They’re kind of like his dad’s team,” said the second-year head coach of Patrick Beilein, who played at West Virginia University under his father, current Michigan coach John Beilein.
Wesleyan is led by sharpshooter TJ Thompson, who is averaging 16.2 points per game and is shooting 67 percent from the field, including 56 percent from behind the 3-point line.
“We have to know where he is at all times,” Calhoun said of the senior. “He’s having a very good senior year.”
As for the Falcons (3-0), staying out of foul trouble and moving the ball around will be key.
“We’ve been making them run (in practice),” Calhoun said of how he’s trying to fix their foul trouble. “They’ve got to understand to watch their hands and be smarter.”
The offense, running through a pair of freshman point guards, has been led by Stevie Browning. Browning is averaging 16.0 points per game.
Fairmont State is also getting solid numbers from senior Brendan Cooper, who is averaging 12.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game.
Still, Calhoun wants to see improvement.
“We’ve got to get better executing the offense,” he said. “We have to execute better, screen better, shoot better.”
Getting the first conference win under his belt would please Calhoun, but he firmly believes there are three parts to the season.
“You have your non-conference season, your conference season and the postseason,” he said . “You can’t get to one without the other.”
The men’s game will follow the women’s game, which tips off at 2:30 p.m. from Joe Retton Arena. The Lady Falcons will also open up conference play against West Virginia Wesleyan.
Email Matt Welch at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.