By Nick Cammuso
Times West Virginian
Just a hunch, but I’m guessing Chase Morgan has been called Captain Morgan a time or two.
Let’s for today be nice and call him something else — Captain Clutch.
Because after Fairmont State’s men’s basketball team’s heart-pounding 83-81 win over Charleston Thursday at a rowdy Joe Retton Arena, the name fits.
Morgan, a 5-11 sophomore guard from Pineville, came off the bench to score 18 points and help the Falcons win for the ninth time in their last 10 tries.
And in this case, it really wasn’t all about what what he did — even if he scored 10 points in the decisive second half, went a perfect 4-of-4 performance from 3-point range and hit two key free throws in the waning seconds — but when he did it.
He nailed a deep trey that dropped down just before the red light hit zeros to give FSU a 47-40 lead at the break.
There’s no doubt this was a shot that ignited both the crowd and the Falcons going into half No. 2, if for no reason that seeing what happen once FSU returned to the floor, pushing its lead to the biggest all night at 66-53 with 10:53 after another Morgan three.
And once the game got tight again, Morgan again came to the rescue. He halted a UC run by nailing yet another three, this one from the left wing, for a seven-point at the 6:39 mark.
The performance was part of a night that saw FSU shoot 55 percent from the field and make a season-high 10 three-pointers against Charleston.
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If you managed to hear first-year head coach Jerrod Calhoun going into Thursday’s matchup, you likely heard about the Falcons’ need to rebound the basketball.
After all, FSU was plus-13 in that category the first time it took on UC down in Charleston. And despite being about even or a little bit over the plus side for the season as a team, Calhoun knows the Falcons need to crash the boards a lot harder to realize their postseason goals.
“If you look at teams who have gone to Final Fours and won national championships, they’re always plus six, seven, eight (in rebounds),” he said. “We about even or plus-one.
“We’re a transition team, so we get a lot of easy baskets so there’s not a whole lot of rebounds. If we’re going to make a run at something big, we’ve got to plus-six, seven on the glass, and then we’d have a heck of a basketball team.”
In fact, going into Thursday, the Falcons had been out-rebounded in three of the last four games. Fairmont State is just 2-4 when being out-rebounded this season, and 9-0 when out-rebounding its opponent.
The latter happen again on Thursday, as the Falcons pulled down 13 offensive rebounds (to UC’s 15) and held a 32-28 rebounding edge overall.
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If the goal all week was to “Jam the Joe,” then mission accomplished.
Fairmont State had more than 1,000 fans attend the women’s opening with Charleston on Thursday and had a season best 3,047 pack the Joe Retton Arena for the men’s contest.
Naturally, most fans in attendance wore white, as the first 1,500 through the door received free T-shirts.
And on the night where some fans made large cardboard cutouts of Falcon plays like Brendan Cooper and Isaac Thornton and others rushed the court after the men’s edged UC, the loud cheers during the halftime biddy ball game stuck out to me.
It was obvious a crowd that got a kick out of the kids showing their developing skills, but also won so amped up about what had transpired during the first half, they couldn’t help but cheer some more.
That’s the sign of a great crowd, a special crowd, and here’s hoping there is more of the same to come.
Email Nick Cammuso at email@example.com or on Twitter@Nick CammusoTWV.