Times West Virginian
If there's one thing Fairmont State's men's basketball team has learned this season it's that no game in the Mountain East Conference is easy.
Thursday evening visiting FSU started out hitting on all cylinders as it raced to a seemingly commanding 24-point lead over West Virginia State late in the first half at Fleming Hall.
Ah, but in this league looks and leads can be deceiving. By halftime, the Yellow Jackets had trimmed the margin to 19 and with seven minutes remaining in the contest they had cut it to a mere four points.
On this night, however, the Falcons had the answer and his name was Thomas Wimbush. Led by the 6-foot-7 redshirt freshman forward and his teammate Chase Morgan, Fairmont extended its 70-66 lead to 85-68 courtesy of a 15-2 run during a span of just three minutes keyed by those two players. The end result was a 90-79 FSU victory.
“It was all a team effort,” said Wimbush, who finished with a career-high 25 points, including seven on the game-clinching final burst. “My teammates were getting me the ball where I could score and putting me in positions where I could excel.”
When Wimbush, who had four slams in the victory, wasn't doing damage inside in the paint for FSU, Morgan was hitting shots from the outside. The junior guard finished with just six points, but all six came on a pair of 3-pointers during the crucial 15-2 run.
The victory improved Fairmont State to 12-6 overall and to 7-5 in the MEC. State, meanwhile, fell to 7-9 overall and to 4-9 in the league. The Falcons are currently in sixth place in the 12-team league and will battle fifth-place West Virginia Wesleyan (13-8, 8-5) Saturday at 4 p.m. in Buckhannon.
Trailing 45-26 at the break last night, State came out in the second half with a game plan of attacking Fairmont and hoping to get the Falcons in foul trouble. It worked pretty well. Thirteen minutes into the final half the Yellow Jackets, led by Anton Hutchins and Bo King, had whittled Fairmont's advantage to just four with plenty of time remaining.
As noted, however, Fairmont responded to the challenge and held State to just three field goals in the game's final seven minutes.
“I told the guys at that point we got the lead by getting several stops in a row,” said Wimbush, who also grabbed seven rebounds in the win. “I said 'Let's buckle down and get some key stops.' That's what we did.”
FSU's Brendan Cooper, who along with teammate Stevie Browning both fouled out of the game in the second half, joined Wimbush in double figures with 16 points and six rebounds. Browning, meanwhile, was held to just eight points, marking the first time in 19 games that he's been held below double figures in scoring.
The contest also marked the return of true freshman guard Caleb Davis to the FSU lineup. Davis, who had been sidelined with an infection since returning from the Christmas break, finished with 13 points, six rebounds and five assists. The Falcons also got 10 points from Shammgod Wells and 10 points and a team-high eight rebounds from Trevor Andrews-Evans.
“We came out, stuck to our game plan, got up early on them and continued to build on that,” said Andrews-Evans, a redshirt freshman center who has been playing well lately for FSU. “In the second half they came out with more energy than us, but we didn't let that bother us. We kept playing our game, stuck to what we do and ended up pulling away from them late to get the win.”
Hutchins and King led State with 20 and 17 points respectively. Hutchins scored 18 of his 20 in the second half. The Yellow Jackets, who were swept by FSU during the regular season, also got 15 points from Juan Johnson.