By Duane Cochran
Times West Virginian
Fresh off of a thrilling overtime road win Thursday over one of the two teams tied for second place in the Mountain East Conference standings, fifth-place Fairmont State had a chance to make a statement Saturday at home at the Joe Retton Arena against the other.
The University of Charleston, however, had other plans and did most of the talking here yesterday, silencing the Falcons to the tune of 79-66.
“I'll be honest with you,” said FSU coach Jerrod Calhoun. “I think they're the better team. They're better from top to bottom. I think they have the first or second best big (Aleksander Kesic) in the league and they have a transfer, a Division I point guard from Idaho (Denzel Douglas), who I think is very good.
“I think what we figured out as a staff tonight and our fans hopefully realize is that we're probably a year away. That's the reality of the situation with all of the injuries we've had and with all of the growing up as a team we need to continue to do.”
The lesson was a tough one for FSU which saw itself get totally dominated and pretty-much manhandled the entire second half by the Golden Eagles. UC forced Fairmont to take bad shot selections for much of the game and held the Falcons to a mere seven made field goals in the second half through the first 15:22 of play while it extended its 34-30 halftime lead to 66-52 with just under five minutes left. The Golden Eagles also owned the glass against Fairmont, out-rebounding the Falcons, 39-31, and benefited from a number of unforced FSU turnovers in the last 20 minutes.
“It's hard when nothing goes inside the basket,” said FSU point guard Shammgod Wells, who had a game-high seven assists but made just 1-of-10 field goals in the loss. “Everybody was going to the basket and trying to make layups, but they weren't falling. It's something we've got to work on and learn to play through, but it's hard to play when you can't make a basket.
“You know it really wasn't anything they were doing either. They played a lot of 2-3 zone the last time that we didn't really see tonight, but tonight was more about us and our inability to execute. I mean, I really don't even know what to say. We've got to play better.”
The win, Charleston's second this season over Fairmont State (UC also got a 75-71 victory over the Falcons back on Dec. 5) and its seventh in a row now, improved the Golden Eagles to 12-4 overall and to 9-3 in the Mountain East Conference. It also kept them locked in a second-place tie in the league standings with Shepherd.
“Obviously this was a good win for us,” said first-year UC coach Dwaine Osborne, who used to coach Glenville State a few years ago. “Anytime you can win on the road it's big.
“Fairmont, with its talent, is a very difficult team to guard, so for us to come in here today and get a road win is nice. You never feel comfortable against this team or feel like you've got the game in hand even if you are leading them by a little because they do have talent and they will keep coming at you. I felt like our guys handled their pressure pretty well today and played pretty good with the lead down the stretch.”
Charleston sophomore center Aleksander Kesic and senior point guard Denzel Douglas led the Golden Eagles with 20 and 18 points, respectively. Kesic got 11 of his points in the second half and also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds. Douglas, meanwhile, exploded for UC in the final 20 minutes, attacking the rim and scoring 14 of his 18 points. Tino diTrapano and Fred Simpson also reached double figures in scoring for Charleston with 14 and 12 points, respectively. UC shot 52 percent from the field in the win.
The Falcons, who were held below 40 percent from the floor, got 17 points from Thomas Wimbush, 14 from Stevie Browning and 13 from Brendan Cooper.
FSU, which dropped to 11-6 overall and to 6-5 in the MEC, will have a chance to regroup this week. The Falcons are idle until Thursday when they visit Institute for a 7:30 p.m. league game with West Virginia State.