Times West Virginian
Once again for Fairmont State's men's basketball team it was a case of too little, too late.
Streaking Wheeling Jesuit University wiped out an early 10-point second-half deficit and held off a late FSU rally to record a 70-67 victory here Thursday evening at the McDonough Center.
The victory was the eighth in a row for the Cardinals, who improved to 14-8 overall and to 11-7 in the Mountain East Conference. It also allowed Wheeling to jump FSU in the league standings and move into a tie for fifth place in the 12-team conference with Glenville State.
Fairmont, on the other hand, dropped its second straight game and fell to 15-8 overall and to 10-7 in the league. The Falcons fell all the way from fourth place to seventh place with the loss and have a meeting with league-leading West Liberty Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Joe Retton Arena. West Liberty (21-1, 17-1) secured the conference's regular-season championship last night with a 106-97 victory over second-place Shepherd.
FSU played well early on last night and took a 34-26 lead into the break. Thomas Wimbush's layup with 19:30 remaining pushed the Falcons' advantage to 10 points at 36-26, but after that FSU's offense went stagnant and Wheeling's came to life.
Trailing 41-36 at the 14-minute mark, the Cardinals exploded on a 19-3 run over the course of a seven-minute span to open a 55-44 lead with seven minutes left to play.
Fairmont, which was held to a mere nine points in the first 11:34 of the second half, regrouped and mounted a comeback which got it within two points on two occasions in the final 1:08.
“Their zone really frustrated us,” said Wimbush, who led FSU with 17 points. “Plus, guys weren't seeing the ball go in the hoop so we had no confidence shooting.
“We really needed to get some stops, but couldn't find a way until late when we made them miss some tough layups and turn it over a few times. That allowed us to get out in transition and score.”
Wheeling made just enough foul shots in the last 1:09 to hold off FSU. The Cardinals, who went 25-of-32 at the foul line in the game, made 7-of-10 attempts in the last 1:09.
Eric Seifert's 1-of-2 effort at the charity stripe with six seconds left gave Wheeling a 70-67 lead. After the ensuing inbounds play, WJU fouled Fairmont's Shammgod Wells on purpose to send him to the line for a one-and-one attempt with three seconds remaining. He missed and Wheeling's Justin Fritts controlled the rebound to secure the win as time expired.
Fritts led WJU with 23 points, 15 of which came at the foul line on 16 attempts. He scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half, including a 13-of-14 performance at the line. The Cardinals also got 17 points and a game-high 12 rebounds from Kyle Ritz, 14 points from Seifert and 13 points from Andre Harris.
Besides Wimbush, the only other Falcon to reach double figures was Stevie Browning, who finished with 15 points, but struggled most of the night from the field going just 6-of-17.
Trevor Andrews-Evans added eight points and seven rebounds for FSU, while Caleb Davis chipped in seven points and seven boards.