Times West Virginian
Tenacious D may be the name of Jack Black's comedy rock duo which has been around for the better part of 10 years, but Saturday afternoon here at the Rockefeller Center Fairmont State's men's basketball team gave West Virginia Wesleyan an exact dose of just that.
Fairmont's harassing, shot-blocking and relentless defense held Wesleyan's outside sharp-shooters in check the entire game and as a result the Falcons recorded a 64-57 victory to overtake the Bobcats for fifth place in the 12-team Mountain East Conference standings. FSU is now 13-6 overall on the year and 8-5 in the league.
“Coach really stressed getting out on their shooters,” said FSU's Brendan Cooper, who scored 17 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to help lead his team to the win. “They live and die by the three and when you're able to take that away from them, they are very limited offensively.”
Wesleyan, which had reeled off four wins in five games coming into yesterday's contest, was leading the league in 3-point field goal percentage (42.6 percent), averaging 10 made long balls per game and was second in the conference in total field goal percentage (49.2).
Saturday all of those numbers went out the window. FSU held the Bobcats to season-lows in points (57 which they also scored earlier this season in a 70-57 loss to Fairmont), made field goals (20), made 3-point field goals (3), field goal percentage (36.4, 20-of-55) and 3-point field goal percentage (16.7, 3-of-18).
“We talked about that with our guys for two days,” said Falcon coach Jerrod Calhoun. “Their ability to make 3-point shots and make jumpers is why they're a good team. You can't let a team like that get into a rhythm. You've got to try to take them out of stuff.
“We switched a lot of ball screens and down screens and I thought we did a nice job of that. There were a few times today when they did take advantage of some mismatches on us, but for the most part I thought we guarded about as good as we could have.”
With Fairmont's freshman guard duo of Shammgod Wells and Caleb Davis both battling foul trouble for much of the second half the Falcons' offense wasn't clicking on all cylinders Saturday. However, veterans like Cooper, Stevie Browning, Chase Morgan and redshirt freshmen Thomas Wimbush and Trevor Andrews-Evans stepped up big for their team down the stretch on that end of the floor.
After Wesleyan closed to within two at 43-41 on a rare five-point play with 10:29 remaining, Fairmont went on a 21-16 run to end the game. All 21 of those points were accounted for by that fivesome.
“Offensively we were a little out of rhythm ourselves today,” said Calhoun. “Both freshman guards really struggled, but it was nice to see some of the kids who have been in our program for a year really step up. I thought Stevie made some key shots for us in the second half and I think Brendan Cooper had a really good floor game for us. He had three turnovers in the first half and I don't think any in the second.
“Trevor also just keeps getting better and better for us on both ends. With Martins (Abele) out, he's getting a ton of game experience. He blocked six shots for us today, but altered countless others around the rim.”
Browning and Wimbush both finished with 14 points apiece and both got the majority of those in the final half.
Tanner McGrew led Wesleyan off the bench with 14 points and seven rebounds. The Bobcats, who fell to 13-9 overall and to 8-6 in the MEC, also got 12 points from T.J. Thompson and 11 from Alexsander Djordjevic.
FSU will face another stern test Monday evening when it returns to the Joe Retton Arena to host Glenville State at 7:30 p.m. for the first of three straight home games this week. The Pioneers, who have won three in a row and are currently in fourth place in the MEC, defeated Fairmont earlier this season, 94-87.
“Monday night is what it's all about,” said Calhoun. “Monday night we need to make a statement because we have not played well at home here lately. Our kids need to come out ready to play and flying around because Glenville State is one of the better teams in our league.”