The Times West Virginian

Sports

January 11, 2014

FSU hosts Concord in MEC game

FAIRMONT — Fairmont State University (9-3, 4-2 MEC) is heading into the second of three games during a midseason homestand as it prepares to host Concord (5-8, 2-5) today at Joe Retton Arena for a 7 p.m. tipoff.

The Falcons are coming off a hard-fought 70-64 victory over Wheeling Jesuit to kick off the three-game, five-day stretch, but second-year head coach Jerrod Calhoun said the focus is on Concord.

“I think (Thursday’s) game was so emotional. The fans were into it. Stevie's (Browning) performance was one of the best performances here in a while. So people are still talking about that game,” Calhoun said of the victory. “But it’s very difficult with a young team trying to maintain our focus. Concord’s been on my mind since (Thursday). Hopefully it's been on our player's minds.”

The performance from Browning that still has fans talking came in the form of a 28-point night that saw the sophomore guard bury 14 of the team’s final 18 points to lead them to a win.

Since the injury to senior swingman Brendan Cooper, Browning has been expected to step up for the Falcons.

“Stevie has been phenomenal. He's a gym rat. He comes from the basketball town of Logan. These West Virginia kids come in with a chip on their shoulder because they didn't get the Division I offer. We had to re-recruit Stevie when we first got here, but we couldn't be happier where he’s heading,” Calhoun said of Browning. “He's averaging 17 points per game as a sophomore; that's phenomenal. It’s exciting to see not only Stevie but where the rest of our team is.”

Calhoun commended Browning, along with the rest of the team, for stepping up when injuries have hit, saying that the team has really bonded over the stretch, and the injuries have forced the team to rely more on each other.

“They're buying into our system, and they’re getting more comfortable. I think with these injuries our team has really bonded. Any time adversity strikes and you've got good people, I think they rise to the occasion,” the head coach said of the situation. “And that's what Shammgod (Wells) and Otar (Pkhaakdze) and Tommy (Scales) have now done and Stevie and really the majority of our team. Tommy Wimbush has had big games for us, too. We hope the young guys keep persevering until we get some healthy bodies.”

Looking at Concord, the Falcons are facing a team which they believe is better than its record indicates, Calhoun citing a close loss to West Liberty and a victory over Glenville State.

“Concord is a team that's still trying to figure themselves out,” Calhoun said. “They've been in every game. To me that's very dangerous. Our next two opponents have really played well against some really good teams, and other games they haven't played so well.”

Another guard-heavy team, Concord’s main threat is junior guard Mike Boyd.

“Mike Boyd’s been in this league. He's a seasoned vet. He knows what to expect,” Calhoun said of the 6-foot guard who is averaging 14.1 points per game and is shooting 54.5 percent from the floor.

Boyd, along with freshman BJ Hamlet and junior AJ Williams, provide many different scoring options around the perimeter for the Mountain Lions, which are coming off an 81-73 loss to Charleston.

Hamlet has come on as a freshman and played 28.1 minutes per game over the last nine contests, averaging 13.3 points per game along the way. Calhoun classified him as one of the best shooters in the league and a shoo-in for the all-freshman team. Williams is a guy who can start or come off the bench and is averaging 11.5 points per game.

“You look at Hamlet and you look at their guards. Any time you have good guards you can always be in the game,” Calhoun said of his team’s opponent. “I think their strength, at Concord is that there's four guards who can all score the basketball.”

Calhoun said his players are just working on getting better, though, and they’ll look to continue pressuring the ball from the inside out to force turnovers and get buckets in transition.

NOTES: The Lady Falcons (5-4, 3-3 MEC) will play Concord (4-6, 2-5 MEC) at Logan at Willie Akers Arena with a 4 p.m. tipoff. ... Makenzie White is leading the team with 15.9 points per game and is coming off a 25-point performance against Wheeling Jesuit... Concord is coming off a 65-61 loss to Charleston on Thursday. ... Junior forward Andrea Bertrand is leading Concord with 19.5 points per game and is coming off a 25-point performance in her last outing.

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