Mountain East Conference (MEC) schedule comes to an end, the Wheeling University Men's Basketball team (1-7, 0-5) made the trip to Institute, West Virginia on Wednesday. After a fast start, the Cardinals were unable to hold on as they fell 92-84 on the road. Four Cardinals finished in double digits on the night, but it wasn't enough as they continue on the path towards their first MEC win of the season.
As they have for most of the 2022-23 season, the Cardinals came out strong in the first half as Trey Stoffer hit a three to start the scoring. That would kick-off a 10-2 run for the Cardinals to start the game as they built up a lead over the first three and a half minutes of play. By the first media timeout, the Cardinal lead sat at 10-5 as the Cardinals took control early. Marcus Johnson contributed six of the ten points to start the run as he once again led the Cardinal's offense. Wheeling continued to hold their lead and a layup by Zion Suddeth made it 16-8 with 13:31 to go before half. Johnson just kept scoring as the half went on, and racked up 10 points before the 10 minute mark. A three-pointer by Suddeth followed by a layup had the Cardinals up 25-16 as the half reached the 10 minute mark.
The teams combined for just two points over the next two minutes, with a Dozie Enyosiobi lay-up bringing the score to 27-20 Cardinals. As the half went on, William Gabbert found his way into the offense, scoring five points over the next four minutes, but West Virginia State continued to creep back into the game. With 4:36 left before half, the Yellow Jackets had come back and made it a 35-34 game. A minute later, John Korte and S.J. Hutchinson each hit shots to make it 39-34 and, after a two-pointer from West Virginia State, Hutchinson added a three-pointer and Wheeling led 42-36. Johnson would hit a free throw and a layup before the half ended and Wheeling went into halftime leading 45-40.
However, as the second half began, West Virginia State began to fight their way back into the game, tying it at 47-47 two minutes in. The teams traded the next three shots, before a Yellow Jacket three gave them their first lead of the night at 52-51. They added two more points before a pair of Brent Price Free throws brought the game to 54-53 with 14:48 to play. Wheeling kept the deficit small and a Korte layup at the 13:33 mark would make it a 60-57 game. However, West Virginia State would then hit a run scoring six unanswered points and at the media timeout it was 66-57 in favor of the Yellow Jackets. Four more points for West Virginia State would make it a 70-57 game and with 10 minutes to go, Wheeling was looking for a way to battle back into this one.
The run would come to an end at 72-57 when a Price field goal put the Cardinals back on offense at 72-59. The Cardinals would need a spark and they would get that from their bench over the final 10 minutes of play. Ryan Reasbeck got the scoring started with a three and Kevin Coleman Jr. added a layup to make it 77-64. That began the biggest Cardinal's run of the night as they went on an 8-2 run to make it a 79-71 game. Reasbeck hit his second three of the day to cap the run and send Wheeling into the media timeout with momentum. The run continued after the media timeout as Reasbeck hit another three and a Johnson layup followed by an Andrew Taylor free throw made it 79-77 with 2:21 to play.
Wheeling continued to battle, making it 82-79 with under two to play, but West Virginia State would hit the game clinching run, scoring 10 of the next 13 points and pushed their lead to 92-82 with six seconds to play. Reasbeck accounted for the only three points for the Cardinals during the run and would end things with a layup that brought the game to its final score of 92-84. The Cardinals battled throughout, but were unable to come through with the win as they drop to 0-5 in MEC play. Still, they battled an undefeated Yellow Jackets team to the very end and have many positives to build off of as they return home this Saturday to wrap up the 2022 portion of their conference schedule.
Leading the way for the Cardinals was Marcus Johnson, who finished with 18 points and shot 9-18 from the floor. He was one of four Cardinals to end in double figures on the day, with Ryan Reasbeck (14), John Korte (12), and Brent Price (10) all finishing in double figures. For Reasbeck, it was a career night as he led the way going 4-6 from three-point range. Price led the defensive effort with 10 rebounds and picked up his first double double of the season. Johnson rounded out the day, leading the passing game with four assists as he continues his strong campaign.
The Wheeling University Men's Basketball team returns to action on Saturday, December 10th, when they host the University of Charleston at 4 PM.