MEC Men's Basketball Quarterfinals Recaps (March 4)
No. 7 Alderson Broaddus 95, No. 2 West Virginia State 87 | Final Stats
By Shawn Rine for MountainEast.org
WHEELING, W.Va. – Every time West Virginia State made a run, Alderson Broaddus had an answer. As a result, history was made Friday at WesBanco Arena.
Jalen Knott and KJ Walker scored 18 points apiece and the Battlers (14-15) became the first No. 7 seed in tournament history to knock off a second seed. The Yellow Jackets (23-7) had twice beaten AB in the regular season, winning the games by a combined 29 points.
“They embarrassed us at their place,” Dye recalled. “(Anthony) Pittman is a special athlete and he had some big-time dunks – it was embarrassing.
“Those were tough losses and we learned from them. We really wanted to focus on our defense.
“As a group, we helped. One person can’t guard five guys.’’
Offense, defense – the Battlers did it all as a group Friday. They limited All-MEC State stars Pittman and Glen Abram to a combined 17 points while forcing the Yellow Jackets into 15 turnovers. Perhaps the most glaring of statistical differences came in the form of fast-break points, where AB held a 24-5 upper hand against ultra-athletic WVSU.
“We picked a bad time to play a bad game,” a disappointed State coach Bryan Poore said. “Alderson Broaddus played (well) and they had the advantage of playing a warm-up game, which I knew that coming in.
“Our two first-team league players had nine turnovers, guys. It’s really that simple. You’re not going to win when your two best players play like that.”
Nobody knew it at the time, but when John Grayson put home a layup with 16:04 left in the first half, Alderson Broaddus would not trail again. The Battlers built as big as an 11-point, first-half margin after Knott and Coryon Rice cashed back-to-back 3-pointers that forced Poore into a timeout with 6:31 remaining.
A Dwaine Jones basket eventually cut it to 37-35, but AB finished the half on a 7-0 run that was highlighted by a pair of Vincent Smalls buckets inside and another 3 off the fingertips of Rice, who pump-faked around two defenders before splashing it through the nets to give his club a 44-35 halftime advantage.
The run-stopping response became a theme throughout the contest.
“That says a lot,” said Walker, who added eight rebounds and six assists to go with his 18 points. “We have a great group of guys.
“We just had to kind of regroup and go out there and do what we needed to do.”
Walker hit a couple free throws to give AB its biggest lead – 70-55 – but State wasn’t going to go without a fight. Eventually the Yellow Jackets closed to within 73-70 on a 3-pointer from Pittman, only to see Rice counter with one of his own beyond the arc.
But from that point, the game was more or less decided at the free-throw line, at least as far as the Battlers are concerned. They made just enough, finishing 25-for-41.
The big star was the freshman Knott, who aside from scoring those 18 points, did a whale of a job guarding Abram who finished with seven points on 3 of 12 shooting.
“He can score the basketball, but his best attribute as a freshman – right now – is how he defends,” Dye said. “I tell him all the time that I expect a lot out of him.
“When he gets angry, he’s special. I challenged him a few times and each time it was a big shot (that followed).
“He’s got a lot of swag.”
Tahliek Walker was big for the Battlers with 17 points and six rebounds, while Rice added 15 points.
Jeremiah Moore kept State in it for large portions of the contest, ending with a double-double of a game-high 26 points and 11 rebounds. Noah Jordan was next with 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Jones checked in with 18 points.
Charleston 88, Concord 84 | Final Stats
By Duane Cochran for MountainEast.org
WHEELING, W.Va. – University of Charleston forward Lamont McManus has presented his share of problems to opposing interior defenses throughout his standout career.
Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the annual Mountain East Conference Men's Basketball Tournament here at Wesbanco Arena McManus was up to his old tricks and this time it was Concord which suffered the consequences.
McManus, a 6-6 fifth-year senior, scored 10 of third-seeded Charleston's first 14 points of the second half to help the Golden Eagles extend a three-point halftime lead to 12 in the first 4:16 of the final half and eventually record a hard-fought 88-84 victory over the resilient, sixth-seeded Mountain Lions.
“I really didn't think anything of it,” McManus, who finished with a team-high 23 points, said with a smile. “I just really wanted to win this game. This is my last ride and whatever we need to get it done I'm going to do it.”
The win, Charleston's seventh in its last eight games, improved the Golden Eagles to 23-6 overall and earns them a bid in Saturday's semifinals at 8:30 p.m. against seventh-seeded Alderson-Broaddus (14-15), which upset second-seeded West Virginia State Friday, 95-87. Saturday will be Charleston's third straight appearance in the conference tournament semifinals.
“We're thankful to win and move on in the tournament,” UC coach Dwaine Osborne, who celebrated his 46th birthday Friday, said. “They (Concord) just fought until the bitter end.
“I'm really proud of our guys. We got contributions from a lot of different places in a lot of different ways. We were fortunate to get a couple of guys back from injury which really helped with our depth factor.
“As for Lamont, when we get him the ball it puts people in a situation where they've got to say are we going to double-team him or guard him one-on-one. If they choose to guard him one-on-one we get pretty excited.”
When McManus wasn't doing damage inside for UC Tyler Eberhart was. Eberhart finished with 15 points and combined with McManus to go 14-of-17 from the field which helped the Golden Eagles hold a 42-32 advantage in points scored in the paint.
“McManus is a load in there and the Eberhart kid had a really good game too,” said Concord guard Matt Weir. “Coach said they were something like 14-of-17 from the field. That's tough. It's hard to key off of their shooters when they throw it down inside because they're such good shooters. If you try to double him he'll find the open shooter.”
Once McManus and UC got control of the contest early in the second half Concord struggled to climb back into contention. The Mountain Lions could get no closer than six until the 1:45 mark when they mounted a furious rally keyed by five 3-point field goals, three of which came from Weir, who finished with a game-high 30 points.
“It was back-and-forth there for a long time in the second half and when we got down 10 coach (Trent) Howard, who coaches our defense, said 'Let's switch to our three,' which is our 1-3-1 and that got them a little flustered,” said Concord coach Todd May.
“Give them credit, though, there were a few times late in the game where we had them late in the shot clock and they were able to bury big shots and it just kinda killed our momentum.”
Concord, which had lost to UC in the regular season by 20 and 28 points, got as close as two at 86-84 with 1.6 seconds to play, but UC sealed the win when Jeremiah Keene sank a pair of three throws with 1.3 seconds left.
“It was a matter of trust in everybody down the stretch,” said Charleston's Keith Williams. “When we go through adversity we know if we trust one another and stick to our game plan it'll be fine. That's UC basketball. That's what we did and it got us through that late adversity there.”
Charleston placed five players in double figures in the scoring column in the win. Joining McManus and Eberhart were Williams, who finished with 20 points and Jeremiah Keene and Isaiah Gable, who both chipped in 11 points apiece. Keene also added a team-high seven rebounds and six assists.
Concord, which finished its season at 14-15, got 14 points and a game-high eight rebounds from Lual Daniel Rahama, 11 points from both Ethan Heller and Jevon Laidler and 10 points from Jordan Wooden.
West Liberty 89, Wheeling 81 | Final Stats
By Shawn Rine for MountainEast.org
WHEELING, W.Va. – Survive and advance. That’s a longstanding March motto.
It doesn’t mean the coach that moves on has to be particularly thrilled with the way victory was achieved. Such was the case for West Liberty’s Ben Howlett following his team’s wire-to-wire quarterfinal victory against Ohio County rival Wheeling on Friday night at WesBanco Arena.
Pat Robinson scored 22 points to lead four double-figure scorers as the Hilltoppers (27-2), who are ranked No. 2 in the country, took the best shot of the ninth-seeded Cardinals (10-20).
“It was an uncomfortable game, and I thought that going into it,’’ said Howlett, who prior to tipoff was presented with his MEC Coach of the Year plaque. “This was the worst game we’ve played all season, particularly in the first half – especially our offense.
“I thought the second half wasn’t much better, but this is what March is all about. You take it, learn from it and hopefully get better for (Saturday) because if we play like this against whomever we play, I think it’s going to be a different outcome.”
Wheeling coach Chris Richardson entered with the game plan of limiting his team’s turnovers in hopes of avoiding those back-breaking runs the Hilltoppers have become known for during the course of more than a decade. The Cardinals did that and then some.
Wheeling turned it over seven times, shot nearly 48 percent and actually held a 15-9 advantage in fastbreak points. Yet when the dust had settled, the Cardinals found themselves on the wrong end of an eight-point loss.
“I thought the game was really kind of a microcosm of our season.” Richardson said. “We’ve been so close all season and at times when you lose a close game you come back and wonder how’s their energy and buy-in going to be?
“It’s never been an issue to the point where I quit worrying about it. There’s nothing for me to worry about because I know I’m going to get their best effort.”
He got it Friday night.
West Liberty has made a living off its pressure defense, not so much by creating turnovers, but rather the ensuing chaos that often leads to hurried shots and subsequent runouts the other way. Wheeling put in a new press-breaker and not only didn’t turn the ball over, but didn’t take ill-advised shots.
“I think people get spoiled by watching our games and expecting us to win by 50 points every night. It just doesn’t happen that way,” Howlett said. “What I just said on the TV production is let’s give Wheeling a lot of credit.
“I think they played maybe that’s the best they’ve played all year. To beat them the way we did the first two times this season and for them to come back and make a game in the conference tournament this close, I think it speaks volumes for Chris and his team and how they’ve played as of late, and how much they’ve improved.”
It looked as though the Hilltoppers were on their way to an easy night as they shot out to an 8-0 lead that forced an early Richardson timeout. That seemed to be just what the doctor ordered, because from that point forward it was more or less an evenly played ballgame. When Jay Gentry drilled a 3-pointer at the first-half horn, the Cardinals had climbed to within 40-34.
Eventually Wheeling clawed all the way back to knot things at 55-55 on two of Jarrett Haines’ game-high 28 points. But WLU responded with six of the next nine including a conventional three-point play from Robinson.
“You’ve got to keep (the score) in the 80s against West Lib, and we were able to do that,” Richardson said. “We just weren’t able to get over the hump.
“I always say that in big games – it sounds so simple, but it comes down to layups. We missed a lot of those.
“(The Toppers) do a great job of walling up around the basket and finishing. We’re obviously not the biggest or strongest team, and that’s something we’ve got to address in recruiting and in our own development.”
West Liberty created the necessary distance with a 17-5 run that turned a tie game into a 12-point lead, on a spin and layin by Viktor Kovacevic. Jordan Reid, who finished with 24 points to back Haines, scored three straight baskets to cut it to eight, but he had to leave the court with cramps following the third of those.
The Hilltoppers did what they needed to down the stretch in order to live to fight another day.
Conference Player of the Year Bryce Butler flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for WLU. Will Yoakum and Malik McKinney ended with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Marlon Moore Jr. added nine points to surpass 1,000 for his career, and tacked on 10 rebounds.
Gentry was the only other Cardinal in double figures with 15.
“It’s March. I expected them to not lay down and let us beat them the way we did the other two times,” Robinson said of the Cards. “They weren’t going to give us a free win … we had to go in there and take it.
“We weathered the storm and got out of there with a win.”
Fairmont State 67, Notre Dame 65 | Final Stats
By Duane Cochran for MountainEast.org
WHEELING, W.Va. – It certainly wasn't pretty and it definitely wasn't easy but defending Mountain East Conference Men's Basketball Tournament champion Fairmont State, the No. 4 seed in 2022, survived a physical battle with fifth-seeded Notre Dame here Friday night at WesBanco Arena in the quarterfinals and emerged with a thrilling 67-65 victory.
The win improved Fairmont State to 23-6 on the year and earned the Falcons a berth in the semifinals Saturday against top-seeded West Liberty at 6 p.m. The Hilltoppers eliminated ninth-seeded Wheeling University Friday night, 89-81. FSU and West Liberty split their regular-season meetings.
“It was a great win for us,” Fairmont State coach Tim Koenig said. “Any win in a tournament is. Obviously you saw tonight, they don't come easy.”
The contest, which was close throughout, featured 12 lead changes and five ties. Fairmont held the lead for nearly 28 minutes of the game, but the Falcons never had more than a nine-point advantage. Notre Dame's largest lead was by four midway through the first half.
“We played them at home and it came down to the last few seconds and it was the same thing when we went up there,” said Fairmont's Isaiah Sanders, who finished with 18 points, 13 of which came in the opening half. “I knew it was going to be a tough, physical game so I really wanted to focus on one play at a time.
“We had to get stops and we got stops. We had to be the more scrappy team and do the little things right and I think we did that. At the end of the game the results showed.
“I told (FSU true freshman) George (Mangas) before we came here this was going to be an opportunity for him to prove himself in front of a lot of people and he did that today so I'm proud of him.”
Mangas was huge for Fairmont State Friday night. The freshman forward, who has had to take on a much more significant role on both ends of the floor with FSU veteran forward Seth Younkin sidelined with a season-ending knee injury, led the Falcons with 22 points, 13 of which came in the second half. He was 7-of-10 from the field and a perfect 7-of-7 at the foul line in his first-ever MEC Tournament game.
“The game plan was to go out there and if they played zone the middle was going to be open and I just tried to take advantage of that,” Mangas said. “I have to play the big now and when I got in the middle they weren't guarding me and my shot was on. Zay (Sanders) pushed me all week to step up, up here and that's what I tried to do tonight.”
Fairmont led 34-33 at the break, but in the first 13 minutes of the second half had turned its one-point lead into a nine-point advantage at 60-51 with just under seven minutes to play. Back-to-back steals and layups by Notre Dame, however, quickly cut FSU's lead to five and it was never more than that again.
A pair of Mangas free throws gave Fairmont a 66-63 lead with 23 seconds remaining. At the other end, Notre Dame struggled to get a shot it wanted and as a result ran a lot of clock and settled for a Daylin Lee scoop bucket with just 2.5 seconds left. Fairmont then inbounded the ball to Sanders, who was immediately fouled with 2.4 seconds left and made 1-of-2 free throws to secure the win.
“It was obviously a tough result,” said Notre Dame coach Mark Richmond. “We got there late and just kind of ran out of time. I thought we finally got some rhythm there late offensively and got downhill and were making plays, but we couldn't get that one more stop late in the game.
“I also thought our 17 turnovers led to our demise. We just couldn't take care of the ball as well as we normally have all year. A lot of these games can go either way and obviously we came out on the short end tonight.”
Both teams had 10 turnovers in the sloppy first half, but as Richmond noted a big difference in the final 20 minutes was that Fairmont only had three, while Notre Dame turned it over seven times.
“We wanted to get downhill on them and attack as much as possible and get to the free throw line,” Notre Dame forward Michael Sampson, who had 13 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, said. “That really didn't happen. They switched to zone and that slowed us down a little, but basically on our end I just didn't feel like we did a good job of finishing at the rim for the most part.”
Fairmont's Zyon Dobbs joined Mangas and Sanders in double figures for the Falcons with 11 points. Sanders also led FSU on the glass with nine boards.
Notre Dame, which finished its season at 15-14, also got 13 points from Jaedon Willis and 12 points apiece from John Godinez and Michael Kirkland.
The trip to the semifinals of the league tournament will be the sixth for Fairmont State in the conference's eight-year history. FSU has made the finals three times, winning it last season against West Liberty.