By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian
After losing back-to-back games for the first time this season, Fairmont State University men’s basketball team will travel to play Shepherd University today at 7:30 p.m., following the women’s game, which tips off at 5:30 p.m.
Fairmont State (10-5, 5-4 MEC) will look to bounce back after a loss to the number-one team in the country, while Shepherd (13-3, 8-2 MEC) is coming off of a win against Wheeling Jesuit.
The loss, a 77-60 defeat by West Liberty, will only strengthen the Falcons, said second-year coach Jerrod Calhoun.
“The good thing going forward is that our young guys have gotten a lot of experience,” Calhoun said. “They’ve now played the number-one and number-two teams in the country. That can only help us.”
Even though the Falcons dropped both decisions to the top teams in the country, the experience that a young team like Fairmont State can endure has surely made players better.
Among those players lie Thomas Wimbush and Trevor Andrews-Evans, two freshman who have stepped up to take on bigger roles as the season progresses.
“Thomas’ upside is tremendous. He’s one of the most talented players in league, if not country,” Calhoun said of the redshirt freshman forward. “He’s a versatile athlete. We’ve just got to work with Thomas on limiting turnovers.”
Wimbush, a 6-foot-7 forward, has seemed to come into his own lately, averaging 14.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Both of those are good enough for second on the team.
For Andrews-Evans, chances have been coming more frequently as the team has gotten into their Mountain East Conference schedule, playing teams that run the floor.
The 6-foot-7 forward is coming off a double-double against West Liberty, something that excited Calhoun.
“Trevor’s confidence coming off of West Lib should be high. He’s very capable of it,” Calhoun said. “When you get 14 and 10 on the road against number one as a freshman, you have some big time abilities. He’s going to get better and better.”
After playing a team like West Liberty, Shepherd’s team presents much of the same style of play.
The Rams are averaging 87.6 points per game and can score from all over the court.
“What makes Shepherd so good is their ability to score the ball,” Calhoun said. “It’s a very challenging game on the road. They make you play fast. They’re like West Liberty. They fly around and are fast.”
Indeed it is, as the Rams boast a 5-2 record at home so far this season compared to the Falcons’ 2-3 road mark.
Leading the Rams is senior Brantley Osborne, who is averaging 20.2 points per game and has scored at least 30 points twice this season.
“You have to try to limit Osborne’s touches,” Calhoun said. “He’s a vey good player, a senior. They have a lot of seniors who are good.”
He’s not a senior, but another Ram who has been putting up solid numbers is Morgan McDonald.
The 6-foot-6 forward is nearly averaging a double-double with 12.0 points and 9.9 rebounds per game, giving the Rams a post presence to try to keep up with a Falcons team that’s near the top of the conference in every rebounding category.
The Falcons’ gameplan is simple, though, Calhoun said: win games.
“The name of the game is to win games and put ourselves at a position to make the NCAAs,” Calhoun said. “Our kids are hungry and know the big picture and i don’t see any quit in them. Sometimes you’ll see a little bit of quit, but I don’t see that in this group.”
NOTES: The Lady Falcons (7-5, 5-4 MEC) are coming off of a win over West Liberty and play the Lady Rams (2-12, 2-8 MEC) at 5:30 p.m. before the men’s game ... Makenzie White is coming off of a 22-point, six-assist, five-rebound, four-steal performance to lead FSU ... Gabby Flinchum leads Shepherd, averaging 15.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
Email Matt Welch at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.