By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian
When the Fairmont State Fighting Falcons and West Virginia Mountaineers take to the hardwood at 7 p.m. today from the WVU Coliseum, there won’t be a cut-in-stone winner or loser.
There won’t be a dash made in the win column for either team.
But there will be something to take away from the game: confidence.
Second-year head coach Jerrod Calhoun and the rest of the Falcons will use their exhibition game against the Mountaineers as a barometer to measure where they stand.
“Our goal is to go up there and compete,” Calhoun said. “I think our guys will gain an unbelievable experience.”
The game will pin together two teams that are separated by a mere half hour. WVU comes into the game as the top dog in West Virginia collegiate basketball, and Calhoun and his players are looking to gain a bit of that title.
“We’re playing the state’s team,” said Calhoun. “That’s a big deal.”
The Falcons’ lineup will feature senior Brendan Cooper, who averaged 12.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game last season. Cooper is the do-it-all man for the Falcons. He can play the perimeter or bang inside with the bigs.
As the only returning senior for the Falcons, Cooper wants to use the game against WVU as the team’s first real test.
“It’s very important to start strong,” Cooper said. “We’re trying to win.”
The last time the Falcons played a Division I school, it was Kent State last season. FSU lost, 77-75.
Filling out the frontcourt for the Falcons is transfer forward Martins Abele.
Abele, who stands 7 feet tall, has been working hard all offseason to gain his teammates’ trust and to become a leader.
“It’ll be a good experience for me and our young guys,” Abele said. “They can see what Division I basketball is like and have the chance to beat a good team.”
In the backcourt, the Falcons will have a heavy dose of shooting from Stevie Browning and solid defense from Ke’Chaun Lewis.
Lewis finished second on the team in steals last season with 44.
At the reins will likely be freshman point guard Caleb Davis.
“Probably the biggest concern is the point guard position and replacing Malik Stith,” Calhoun said. “We’ll do that by committee. We have three very good freshman point guards.”
Calhoun said he looks to play five different freshmen on the night, so everyone on the team will get to see some kind of action.
Across the floor, West Virginia boasts two sophomore studs in Eron Harris and Terry Henderson. Harris led the Mountaineers in scoring last season with 9.8 points per game.
The Mountaineers’ offense runs through point guard Juwan Staten, who will take sole possession of the spot after Jabarie Hinds transferred after last season’s woes.
Staten had 101 assists and 38 steals last season, leading WVU in both categories.
Down on the block the Mountaineers will turn to big man Kevin Noreen.
Noreen, a solid shooter, has yet to put together a quality season due to injuries, but was still able to lead WVU in rebounds last year with 4.4 per game.
FSU believes that even though it has a young team, it can still come in and pick up the win.
“We have a chance,” Abele said. “They’re a good team, but we can beat them.”
Email Matt Welch at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.