The Times West Virginian

December 5, 2013

FSU set for important MEC game

By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — While their classmates were home for Thanksgiving break feasting on turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie, the Fairmont State University basketball team was taking second helpings of something else: basketball practice.

The Falcons trained twice a day during the break to help the young team work on its weaknesses.

Now that the vacation is over, it’s finally time for the Falcons to eat when they travel to play the University of Charleston today. The women’s game tips off at 5:30 p.m. followed by the men’s game at 7:30 p.m.

For the men’s team, it will be its third Mountain East Conference matchup of the season. The Falcons (5-1, 1-1 MEC) are in a gridlock with six others who also have .500 records in the conference at this early juncture in the season. This includes the Eagles (4-1, 1-1 MEC).

Fairmont State coach Jerrod Calhoun said the importance of conference games cannot be overstated.

“Every game is critical because you’re trying to position yourself for post-season play,” he said. “Every game is bigger and bigger.”

Charleston was projected to finish sixth in the first-ever Mountain East Conference preseason poll. However, Calhoun said the one-loss team has been “the surprise team in the Mountain East.” The Eagles boast three in-region wins— two from the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (Shippensburg and Slippery Rock) and one from the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (Shaw).

Much of the Eagles’ success in the young season can be attributed to their two towering forwards 6-foot-6 senior Xavier Humphrey and 6-foot-8 sophomore Aleksander Kesic.

“They are big and strong kids who know how to play,” Calhoun said. “Xavier Humphrey is a catch-and-shoot player who plays on the perimeter. He has been in the league three years, and he knows it well. And Kesic is very good around the basket.”

Through five games, Humphrey leads the Eagles with just under 20 points per game to go along with 4.2 rebounds per contest. Kesic, meanwhile, has averaged 12 points and five rebounds.

The pair will create plenty of challenges on the offensive side of the ball, but Calhoun said he is more focused on what the Eagles do defensively. The Eagles are holding opponents to just 65.8 points per game, the second-lowest total in the MEC.

“They are probably one of the best teams in the league defensively,” Calhoun said. “They try to control the tempo, so we’ve got to create transition baskets.”

It will help the Falcons some that they will have several of their key contributors returning from injuries. He said that sophomore Ke’Chaun Lewis’ ankle injury has progressed well. And Chase Morgan, who suffered a facial injury that required surgery, has been fitted with a mask to play.

No word from Morgan on if the post-surgery medicine affected his appetite. As for the rest of the squad, they’ll be hungry for some bird.

Email Mike DeFabo at mdefabo@timeswv.com or follow on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.