Times West Virginian
There was a point late in Fairmont State's game with Concord University here Thursday night at the Carter Center when Falcon coach Jerrod Calhoun just shook his head and smiled.
The second-year FSU boss demands that his team attempts night in and night out to play staunch defense. Last night, the Falcons did it to near perfection and the result was a dominating 68-40 victory over the Mountain Lions.
How good was Fairmont's defense? The 40 points were the fewest points allowed by a Mountain East Conference team this season and the fewest given up by FSU since the 2007-08 Falcons held Penn State Greater Allegheny to 23.
Concord, which came into the contest averaging 77 points per outing, managed just 12 made field goals in the loss, which is the fewest amount made against an MEC team this year. Concord's previous low total for made field goals this season was 19 twice – once in a 73-66 win over Urbana and again in a 71-66 loss to FSU back on Jan. 11.
“I thought we had a chance to start the game and really bury them,” said Calhoun. “We were up 20-3 and then got a little lackadaisical, so I got on them a little bit at halftime and tried to get them to understand we can't take possessions off. When we're up eight, 10 or 12 we've got to build on that and extended it by getting stops.
“In the second half I thought we took tremendous pride in doing the staple things of our program which are to rebound the ball and guard people. You've got to be consistent every night doing that. When we guard it really allows our offense to get going. Tonight I thought every guy we put in the game played great defense for us. I'm proud of them for their efforts.”
After falling behind by 17 to start the game, Concord rallied back and closed the gap to just nine at the half at 31-22. The Mountain Lions then got within seven twice early in the second half before Fairmont shut them down and went on a 15-2 run to open a 50-30 lead with 8:31 remaining and end any doubt as to the contest's outcome.
“It was a great team effort tonight defensively,” said Fairmont junior guard Chase Morgan, who came off of the bench and led the Falcons with 18 points. “I thought we were completely dialed in and ready to go. We played hard and we played with a lot of effort and intensity. We wanted to keep the momentum rolling from the win over West Liberty and I think that's exactly what we did.
“As for me, I just try to do what I'm supposed to do for the team. I had a lot of family and friends at the game tonight so I wanted to have a good game and shoot the ball well against their zone. I was blessed that the shots went in.”
The Falcons also got 14 points and four rebounds from Thomas Wimbush, 10 points from Shammgod Wells and eight points, eight assists and seven rebounds from Brendan Cooper.
Concord, which was held to a season-low 32.4 percent from the field (12-of-37), got a team-high 11 points from Cam Shannon. The Mountain Lions' leading scorer, Mike Boyd, who was averaging 15 points per outing, was held to just six points.
The win improved Fairmont State, which has won six of its last eight outings, to 17-8 overall and to 12-7 in the MEC. The Falcons are tied for fifth in the 12-team league with West Virginia Wesleyan. Concord fell to 8-17 overall and to 5-14 in the league.
FSU, which was ranked eighth in the Atlantic Region in the first NCAA Division II Regional Rankings which were announced Wednesday, will attempt to improve its position there and get a little pay back when it visits Virginia-Wise Saturday for a 3 p.m. MEC game. The Cavaliers (9-14, 6-13) defeated FSU earlier this season 82-77 in Fairmont.
“I thought tonight was one of the better defensive performances I've seen in a long time and hopefully we can build on that because we've got to get ready to face a tough Virginia-Wise team on the road Saturday,” said Calhoun. “We've got to get dialed in and get better because this is a very important stretch of games for us.”