By Duane Cochran
Times West Virginian
For the first time in two years and only the second time in five years, Fairmont State’s Lady Falcons find themselves in the midst of a three-game losing streak.
Visiting Urbana University used an impressive 22-5 run in the final 6:05 of the first half to wipe out a 10-point FSU lead and take control of the game for good en route to a 64-61 nonconference victory here Wednesday evening at the Joe Retton Arena.
The loss drops Fairmont State to 11-6 overall. Five of the Lady Falcons’ losses this season have come by three points or less. Urbana, on the other hand, improved to 8-12.
“I’m as disappointed in a basketball team right now than I’ve ever been in 32 years,” said FSU coach Steve McDonald. “It was as lackluster of a performance as you could possibly have. We have no excuses. These kids are 20 years old. They ought to be able to play a game every night.
“We’ve played all of these games on the road here recently and have given some great efforts and we get a chance to come home and we don’t give an effort which is extremely disappointing. I’m also very disappointed for them because at this point getting an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament is probably out of the question. The whole objective of playing is to make the NCAAs. We’ll have a chance to play in the league tournament at the end of the regular season so we’ll see what happens there, but right now I just have no explanation as to why we had such a lack of desire to play basketball tonight.”
The game was the fourth in seven days for FSU’s women. Early on, though, it looked as if Fairmont would halt its two-game skid. The Lady Falcons raced to a 30-20 lead less than 14 minutes into the contest then suffered numerous turnovers and poor possessions on offense late in the opening half and Urbana made FSU pay.
As noted the Lady Blue Knights ended the first half on a 22-5 spurt to take a 42-35 advantage into the break. Leading scorer Ciara Geiger helped key the game-changing run with 16 of her game-high 18 points coming in the first 20 minutes.
Early in the second half Urbana extended its lead to as many as 14 at 51-37 before Fairmont mounted a furious comeback bid. Lead by Briana Welch, Courtney Swiger, Hallie Gunnoe, Emily Lohr, Hailey Garrett and Payden Eckleberry FSU clawed its way back into contention and trailed just 57-53 with 6:16 left to play.
Fairmont’s Kaitlin Snyder sank a pair of free throws with 4:10 remaining to make it 58-55. It was the first and only points of the game for FSU’s leading scorer, who came into the contest averaging 18.7.
Four times in the final four minutes Fairmont got within three but couldn’t get any closer. Twice the Lady Falcons had the basketball trailing by three in the final minute and turned it over. FSU suffered an uncharacteristic 20 turnovers in the loss.
Fairmont had one final chance to tie the game when Tiffany Nicholson came up with a steal in Urbana’s front court with five seconds remaining but her long-range desperation 3-pointer was off the mark.
Welch led FSU with 16 points and seven rebounds. Lohr added 14 points and a team-high four steals. Garrett posted her team-leading seventh double-double of the season. She finished with 11 points, a game-high 14 rebounds and a career-high seven assists. The Lady Blue Knights, however, limited her to just two points in the second half. FSU also got 10 points and eight rebounds from Gunnoe.
The balanced Lady Blue Knights were led by Geiger’s 18 points. Urbana also got 11 points from Katie Francisco, eight from Kennedy Boggs and six apiece from Andrea Vogel, Jackie Cousineau and Katy Barkley.
Fairmont State will attempt to halt its rare-three game losing streak Saturday when it hosts Davis & Elkins College at 2 p.m. at the Joe Retton Arena. FSU’s women haven’t lost four straight games since the 2006-07 season.