By Duane Cochran
For the Times West Virginian
Maybe it was the shocking loss to Seton Hill Thursday evening or possibly the 5 a.m. practice session that followed Friday morning.
Whatever the case, Fairmont State University’s men’s basketball team awoke from its slumber here Saturday afternoon and steamrolled visiting Ohio Valley University, 90-42, in the regular-season finale for both squads at the Joe Retton Arena.
Ironically, both teams will square off again Tuesday night at the same place when the Falcons host the Fighting Scots in the opening round of the annual West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Basketball Tournament at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. There will be no reserved seating.
With the win, Fairmont finished the regular season 19-7 overall and 17-5 in the WVIAC. The Falcons also finished second in the league standings for the first time since 2000.
Ohio Valley, on the other hand, dropped to 3-25 overall and to 2-20 in the league. The Fighting Scots finished last in the 15-team conference.
Saturday on Senior Day, Fairmont was determined to set the tone early against the outmanned Fighting Scots. The Falcons never trailed en route to the win and less than eight minutes into the game had built a 10-point advantage.
“Our purpose today was to play with some enthusiasm,” said FSU senior point guard Malik Stith, who scored all 15 of his points in the opening half to help the Falcons build a 48-25 lead by the break. “(Graduate assistant) Coach (Mantoris) Robinson put that word on the board today prior to the game. We didn’t have that in our last game (a 76-73 loss to Seton Hill) and that was our fault as players. We don’t blame the coaches. As players we’ve got to go out and produce and we didn’t do that Thursday.
“Today we wanted to come out and set the tone early knowing that we’re going to see them again on Tuesday. We didn’t want to give them any hope. We wanted to show them that we’re clearly the better team. Plus, today was Senior Day and that’s always an emotional day. So we had a lot of energy today and now we’ve got to carry that over to Tuesday.”
In the first four minutes of the second half Fairmont had extended its lead to 30 and the rout was on. Fellow FSU senior Isaac Thornton joined Stith in double figures with 13 points, 10 of which came in the first 20 minutes.
“The most important thing for us today was to get ourselves back on track,” said Thornton, who recently became just the eighth player in school history to go over 2,000 points for his career. “We had lost two straight and everyone was a little down, but we picked it back up today and got the win.
“Senior Day is hard because there are a lot of emotions flying around, but at the end of the day you’ve got to take care of your business and win and we did that. You don’t want to lose on Senior Day.”
In all, 15 players saw action in the game for the Falcons, including all seven seniors and 14 of the players who appeared in the contest scored. Chase Morgan added nine points for FSU and senior center Isaiah Hill finished with eight.
“Yesterday we went really early for practice,” said first-year FSU coach Jerrod Calhoun. “We went at 5 a.m. I just felt like we needed to do something to get their attention. It’s tournament time and we need to be playing well. Tournament time is supposed to be a fun time and a happy time, but at the same time we’ve got another game with them Tuesday here and we can’t afford to overlook them.
“Today was nice. We got to play a lot of people a lot of minutes. I’m very, very proud of our seniors. We have seven seniors, five of whom were returning guys for us and they went through a lot here with the coaching change. I’m really happy with the way they’ve all come together and with the way we’ve come together as a team in a relative short period of time. To be honest, I like where we’re at as a team.”
Ohio Valley was led by David Sinickas and Ashton Brown, who finished with 12 and 10 points respectively for the Fighting Scots. Brown, who was one of the leading scorers in the league coming into the game, was held nine points below his season average of 19. The 42 points was also the second-fewest points scored by Ohio Valley this season.