FAIRMONT - With few exceptions, most birds are warm-blooded creatures -- Falcons tend to be no different. That hasn't stopped Fairmont State's Cole VonHandorf from having ice running through his veins.
VonHandorf -- a junior guard for the Falcons and Lexington, Kentucky native -- showed off his cold-blooded tendencies with a game-winning layup to open the season on Friday night, and decided to give a second display on Saturday as Fairmont hosted Slippery Rock during the Joe Retton Classic.
He would lead a Fairmont charge from a three-point halftime deficit, converting six of his final seven shots and scoring 17 second-half points. His effort would help the Falcons go on an 11-point scoring run to take the lead late and secure a 85-78 victory.
“In the first half, nothing was really falling and I accepted it -- I told myself that I was going to keep shooting but I also wanted to try and create for others; drop-offs to Jacob brown there helping up, and Isaiah (Sanders) had an excellent first half. They really picked me up,” said VonHandorf, who also tallied five assists in the contest.
“In the second half I kind of just tried to put it on my shoulders. I told myself, I’m the leader, I’m that captain, and I have to get this win for my team. I just came up, the shots started falling, and I made sure we were moving the ball and that things worked out.”
“In crunch time, we put the ball in his hands and trust that he’ll make good decisions and things will work out. His preparation is really good, and he prepares every day, getting his individual work in and watching film. He knows where every guy on the court is -- he could probably run our rotations in defensive shell instead of me,” Fairmont head coach Tim Koenig said.
“He’s can read and react really well, and that allows him to put himself into these positions toward the end of games .”
The Rock would be led by explosive performances from senior duo Jared Armstrong and Will Robinson Jr., who combined for 61 points in the loss -- Robinson would record a double-double, tallying 38 points and 12 rebounds on the night.
“We stressed keying in on those two in the pre-game -- obviously we didn’t want them to reach 60 combined, but we sort of expected it. They’re two awesome players, and they did a good job of getting to the rim and getting to the free throw line. We need to trust ourselves and trust our team when we’re in help defense, because we’re playing on an island right now,” VonHandorf said.
SRU entered opening weekend receiving votes in the preseason NABC Coaches' Poll and downed defending MEC tournament champion and NCAA Tournament qualifier Notre Dame on Frida -- they finished last season 10th in the Atlantic region, in which Fairmont State also competes.
“Every win is big, every win is a good win, but these are two very good teams we beat this weekend. There’s a reason Slippery Rock was picked to finish second in their division in the PSAC and were receiving votes nationally. Come March, they’re going to be knocking on the door for the NCAA tournament,” Koenig said.
The Falcons finish their opening weekend undefeated (2-0) and will return to regular season action on November 23 as they host Davis and Elkins in their MEC opener. Before that, they will travel to Division 1 Bowling Green for an exhibition match-up this week.