No one can fault the effort of Fairmont State University’s men’s basketball team this season.
The Falcons, who have struggled considerably at times to record wins, have never been accused of not playing hard or not giving effort.
Monday evening here at the Joe Retton Arena, Fairmont’s persistence paid off. Led by Isaac Thornton’s game-high 31 points and 12 rebounds, the Falcons snapped a four-game losing streak with an 80-74 victory over Davis & Elkins.
The win improved FSU to 8-15 overall and to 6-13 in the West Virginia Conference. It also gave interim coach Brett Vincent his 100th victory as a head coach in the WVIAC. He was 92-49 as the head coach of Alderson-Broaddus from 1996-2001.
“It feels pretty good to finally get a win, but I’m still a little disappointed because I know we didn’t play well for a full 40 minutes,” said Thornton, who scored 30 or more points for the third game in a row for the Falcons. “You have to do that against good teams. We have to put a 40-minute game together, especially going down to Charleston Thursday night because they’re a great team.”
Thornton and Chris Thompson, who finished with eight points and seven rebounds, provided much of the offensive spark early for the Falcons, who led 36-29 at the half. In the final 20 minutes D&E came out on fire and used an 8-0 run to take a short-lived 37-36 lead.
After that, Steve Custis and Melvin Rhodes came to life. Custis, who had just four points at the break, finished with 18, including 10 in the game’s final 7:26. Rhodes, on the other hand, chipped in 10 points before fouling out with 2:15 to play. Eight of his 10 came in the second half.
“We played about a good 30 minutes tonight and to be honest that’s not enough,” said Custis. “We gave up too many offensive rebounds and turned the ball over more than usual. The good thing, though, is we knocked down some shots down the stretch to help hold them off. That was a big key for us.
“I felt like I let my team down in the first half tonight. I was missing easy shots and wasn’t scoring with the ball. In the second half I knew I had to come out and play better. Give Isaac credit, though, because once again he came up big for us.”
D&E closed to within two at 72-70 with 2:15 to play and at the other end Thornton was off the mark on a 3-pointer. Thompson, though, alertly tipped the rebound out to Mike Hurd, who had struggled all night from behind the arc. Hurd, who finished just 2-of-10 from 3-point range, pulled the trigger and drained a huge 3-pointer with 1:41 remaining to give FSU a much-needed five-point cushion.
“As a shooter you’ve got to have amnesia when things aren’t going well,” said Hurd, who finished with six points. “When you get in a slump the only way to make one is to take one. Shooters have to keep shooting and luckily my teammates and the coaching staff didn’t lose confidence in me tonight.
“The ball came to me and I buried it. It absolutely felt great because we needed it. Tonight wasn’t pretty, but right now we’ll take a win any way we can get one. We just need to keep working to get better.”
The Senators, who fell to 6-16 overall and to 3-16 in the league, were led by Malik Tinsley’s 29 points and 10 rebounds. D&E also got 13 points from Paolo Ivis and 11 from D’Quan Lynch.
Fairmont State will attempt to record back-to-back wins for the first time since early January when it visits the University of Charleston on Thursday for an 8 p.m. game.