By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian
Since day one, making another post-season run has been at the top of Fairmont State coach Jerrod Calhoun’s mind.
Last season the Falcons went three-for-four in the WVIAC Tournament, falling to West Liberty in the tournament’s final game. The strong run, though, propelled the Falcons into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 4 seed.
This season, FSU sits just inside the top eight teams listed in the regional rankings at the sixth spot. To stay in, Calhoun said, FSU needs to make another conference tournament run.
“I think what we’ve got to do is keep winning games,” Calhoun said. “If you look at the region, there’s a lot of good teams.”
The winning needs to begin tonight when the Falcons take on West Virginia Wesleyan in Charleston at 8:15.
Their opponent? A team sitting just outside the top eight teams in the regional rankings in Wesleyan.
It is a team that FSU is familiar with, Wesleyan has won seven of its last nine games, and Calhoun’s Falcons will be looking to topple the Bobcats for the third time this season.
“Any time you try to beat a team three times, it's going to be hard,” Calhoun said. “I think Pat Beilein has done as good a job as anyone in our league this year. He'll probably get my vote for coach of the year.”
Beilein runs things very similar to how his father John Beilein did at West Virginia University and currently does at Michigan. His guys are shooters.
Any time a team has jump shooters, you have to find a way to disrupt their rhythm, FSU senior swing-man Brendan Cooper said.
“We have to not help them as much and really contest their shooters and run them off the 3-point line,” he said.
The Bobcats average 73.7 points per game and shoot 47.7 percent from the field for the season. During both losses to Fairmont State, they shot just 38.9 and 36.4 percent from the field, two of the lowest numbers all season.
Coming off a close win at home against Shepherd, the Falcons may have a little momentum. Being able to play together down the stretch shows what they’re capable of against any opponent, Cooper explained.
“We stepped up in the second half (of the Shepherd game) and we know if we step up against good teams, we can beat anybody,” he said.
But the importance behind this game lingers deeper than any Wesleyan shooter can shoot from. The Falcons need to get past this game in order to look ahead to the next, with each game rising in importance when it comes to making the NCAA Tournament.
“We beat Shepherd twice now and we've beaten Wesleyan twice. Those teams are both in the region. We have five regional wins,” Calhoun noted. “There are three teams ahead of us that all lost heading into the tournament.”
Calhoun and his team know that any loss could cut their season short.
“If we head down there and lose in the quarterfinals, we have to think we’re done,” he said. “So we’ve got to win every game.”
The road begins tonight for the Falcons.
Email Matt Welch at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.