Fairmont State rallied from a 16-point second-half deficit here Thursday evening and stunned second-place Shepherd University, 90-85, in overtime at the Butcher Athletic Center.
The Falcons overcame a lackluster performance in the opening half which saw them trail the Rams by 14 at the break and a plethora of foul trouble to get the victory. In all, 60 personal fouls were called in the contest, including 33 on the Falcons, who allowed Shepherd to enter the bonus with a whopping 15:26 left in regulation. Both teams had four players each foul out in the game.
“We came out really flat in the first half,” said Fairmont’s Stevie Browning, who led all scorers with 26 points and nine rebounds before fouling out with 1:18 left in overtime. “We talked at halftime and agreed as a team that we weren’t going to let that happen again.
“In the second half we came out with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, but we started fouling and ended up getting a lot people in foul trouble. We did a great job, though, of fighting through that adversity. We got key stops late in the second half and in overtime which helped us pull this one out.”
The win halted a rare two-game losing streak for Fairmont and improved the Falcons to 11-5 overall and to 6-4 in the Mountain East Conference. Shepherd, on the other hand, saw its modest three-game winning streak end with the loss. The Rams fell to 13-4 overall and to 8-3 in the league, but remain tied with Charleston for second place. FSU will host Charleston Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Joe Retton Arena. UC upended Fairmont State, 75-71, back on Dec. 5 in Charleston.
After falling behind 47-31 early in the second half, Fairmont mounted a furious comeback keyed by staunch defense, aggressive rebounding and a solid offense to claw its way back into contention. Shepherd shot just 28.9 percent from the field (11-of-38) in the final 25 minutes, including 20 percent (3-of-15) from long range. The Rams also got out-rebounded in the final half, 36-14.
FSU, meanwhile, shot 54.2 percent from the field in the second half and overtime (19-of-35) and after getting down by 16 outscored Shepherd 33-16 to take a short-lived 64-63 advantage with 7:58 left to play in regulation.
The Rams, though, responded and got the lead back to seven on a couple of occasions down the stretch before settling for a six-point, 79-73, lead with 3:29 left to play. In that final 3:29, however, Fairmont held Shepherd scoreless and reeled off six unanswered points, including a crucial Trevor Andrews-Evans foul shot with 12.9 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 79. Shepherd got off two shots in the final 12 seconds but neither would fall and the game headed to OT.
In overtime Fairmont’s Chase Morgan quickly buried a 3-pointer and then hit a foul shot to give the Falcons an 83-79 advantage and they never trailed again. Morgan scored five of his 11 points in overtime and Brendan Cooper, who returned to the lineup last night after missing several weeks with a broken hand, added four in the extra session, including two huge foul shots with 31 seconds left to help hold off the Rams. Cooper finished with 15 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
“Tonight just shows you can never count us out,” said Cooper. “Our team and coaching staff never give up. We’ve been in those situations before and you just have to keep fighting your way back. That’s all we did.
“For me personally it felt great to be back with the team. My hand is still sore, but it’s getting better.”
Browning, Cooper and Morgan were joined in double figures by senior center Martins Abele, who like Cooper also recorded a double-double in the win with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Shammgod Wells, who missed the West Liberty game last Saturday with a concussion, was also back in action last night and ended up with 10 points before he fouled out with 3:14 left in overtime.
Shepherd was led by Austin Cunningham’s 20 points. The Rams also got 18 from Marcus Pilgrim, 13 from Kevin Jones and 10 from Morgan McDonald.
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HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved
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