By Duane Cochran
For the Times West Virginian
Fairmont State’s men’s basketball team continued its hot play here Monday evening as it returned to the friendly confines of the Joe Retton Arena.
The Falcons, who hadn’t played at home in more than a month, took control early and rolled to a 69-53 victory over much-improved Seton Hill (Pa.) University to record their sixth win in seven outings.
“We knew this was going to be a tough, knock down, drag out-type of game tonight,” said FSU coach Jerrod Calhoun, who watched his team improve to 8-3 overall and to 6-1 in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. “They’re the best defensive team in the league statistical-wise. They were only giving up 62 points a game and I’m just proud that we got it done tonight and that we’re getting better.
“We still have a long way to go as a team, but we’re getting better. We’ve got to build on every win because they’re hard to get.”
Once again the Falcons used a balanced offensive attack to record the victory. Four FSU players reached double figures in the scoring column, led by Isaac Thornton’s 17 points.
“We knew with them being a good defensive team that we had to execute, and I didn’t think we did a great job of executing tonight but we got it done,” said Thornton, who also grabbed seven rebounds in the victory. “We stayed aggressive and we got out and got some baskets in transition, which is what we like to do and what our game is. Tonight, though, it was kind of a grind-it-out win for us.”
FSU also got 13 points from point guard Malik Stith, 12 points and 10 rebounds from Brendan Cooper, 10 points and five boards from Isaiah Hill, and eight points from Andrew Gunnoe.
“We practice really hard every day in practice and things are starting to come together nicely for us,” Gunnoe said. “We’re getting more comfortable with one another and tonight I thought we played pretty well on defense. We held them to 53 points and really made them work for what they got.”
The contest wasn’t pretty by any means. The two teams combined for 45 turnovers (24 for Seton Hill and 21 for Fairmont) and 45 fouls (24 for FSU and 21 for SHU). However, after spotting Seton Hill an early 2-0 lead, the Falcons reeled off 11 unanswered points and virtually never looked back.
“We took a lot of their offensive stuff away tonight,” said Cooper, who registered his third double-double performance of the season for the Falcons. “We did a good job of scouting them. They really couldn’t get into their offense and get it going.”
Fairmont led 35-27 at the break and quickly extended its lead to 16 during the first 10 minutes of the second half. After that, the Griffins couldn’t get any closer than 12 the rest of the way.
“We stress defense every day,” Thornton said. “That’s the heart of this program. We’re trying to get better on defense every day, and we’re going to go from there.”
Seton Hill, which fell to 6-5 overall and to 3-4 in the WVIAC with the loss, was led by Max Kenyi’s 20 points and five rebounds. He got 15 of his points at the foul line. The Griffins also got 15 points and eight rebounds from Kameron Taylor.
FSU will take a couple days off before returning to action on the road when it visits Concord University for a 4 p.m. game Saturday in Athens.