By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian
Coach Jerrod Calhoun had seen enough.
With 25 seconds still on the game clock and his Fairmont State University Falcons trailing the University of Charleston by double digits Saturday afternoon at Joe Retton Arena, the coach took off down the court. He shook hands with the opposing coach, and then with time still winding down on the scoreboard, he made a bee-line for the locker room, disgusted.
Prior to the game, Calhoun highlighted a four-game stretch, saying that the results would “define the season.”
But after the game began to slip away in the second half and after Calhoun berated his team on the bench for their careless passes, a lackadaisical mindset on the boards and a general lack of urgency, it was clear that this was not the “defining” moment Calhoun had hoped for.
“If you want to play in March, you’ve got to win games,” Calhoun said Wednesday. “Our kids understand that they’re running out of time.”
With the loss, the Falcons (11-6, 6-5 MEC) missed a key opportunity to jump into the upper-rung of Mountain East Conference teams. The five conference losses through 11 games have already equaled last year’s total in 22 West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference games.
But still, the fact remains that Calhoun pointed to four decisive games, not one. More notably, the sixth-place Falcons still have 11 games to play over the next month and change.
As Fairmont State senior center Martins Abele tweeted Wednesday: “Victory is on the other side of defeat. They say there’s always a breakdown before a breakthrough. Stay in a fight. Victory is yours!!!”
The Fighting Falcons will see exactly how much fight they have left beginning today when the team visits West Virginia State. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. after the women’s game at 5:30 p.m.
Fairmont State enters the game after scoring just 66 points against Charleston, its second-lowest scoring output of the season. Today’s game against the West Virginia State (7-8, 4-8 MEC) comes at a perfect time for Falcons, as the Yellow Jackets are giving up a league-worst 92.6 points per game.
When the two teams met on Dec. 7, five Fairmont State players scored in double figures to help the Falcons to a 107-89 victory, the Falcons’ second-best offensive outburst this year.
Does that mean Fairmont State will turn in an equally potent offensive performance today?
“I hope so,” Calhoun said. “Against these guys you’ve got to get up and down and get some transition baskets.”
However, if Saturday’s game taught the Falcons anything, it’s that they need to put together two solid halves. If it hasn’t proven that point, the December showdown with the Yellow Jackets should reiterate it, since the Falcons trailed by two at the half before pulling ahead.
West Virginia State, which has lost back-to-back games, is led by three players who average double figures: Bo King (21.3 points per game), Anton Hutchins (18) and Dominic Phillips (16.8).
"They're a very guard-heavy team that looks to get out in transition,” Calhoun said. “We've got to get back in transition and try to make it a halfcourt game.”
But more than what the Yellow Jackets do, the Falcons will need to play their style of basketball— prove that they are still the league-leader in rebounding, take care of the basketball and find ways to get senior playmaker Brendan Cooper back into the fold in just his third game back from a hand injury.
If not, the Falcons risk losing for the fourth time in five games, not to mention another early exit from Calhoun.
“I hope our kids know that our backs are against the wall,” Calhoun said. “Right now with six losses, we can’t afford to lose any more. Every game is critical.”
Injury Notes: Freshman point guard Caleb Davis will return after missing an extended period of time with a chest infection. ... Abele sustained a concussion and will miss the next three games.
Email Mike DeFabo at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.