Wheeling, W. Va. – With only three home games during the month of February, the Wheeling University Men's Basketball team (5-17, 3-13) was looking to take advantage of their home court. However, they would fall in their first of those three home games, falling to West Virginia State 111-77. The Cardinals bounced back in the second half, putting up 47 points but the damage was done early as they were never able to recover from the early hole.
Wheeling would fall victim to one of the best shooting days of the season for West Virginia State in the first half. The Yellow Jackets shot 61% from the floor in the first half and had a 52% mark from beyond the three-point line. Over the first five minutes of the game, the Cardinals kept right up with the Yellow Jackets shooting as the score was tied 9-9 with 15:59 left in the first. Marcus Johnson accounted for five points during the run while Andrew Taylor and Brent Price each added layups. Johnson would add another layup, but West Virginia State found their first run of the night, scoring 11 of the next 14 points to go ahead 20-12. Price broke the run with a free throw and the Cardinals would begin to battle back. William Gabbert and Kevin Coleman Jr. each hit jumpers and as the 10 minute mark passed, the Cardinals trailed 27-17.
With just 10 points separating the two teams, the Yellow Jackets began to hit their stroke and added 29 points during that time. Ryan Reasbeck would get the Cardinals to within single digits with a three-pointer, and Korte added Free throw, but the next Cardinal point would take about two minutes to find the net. Marcus Johnson added a layup, but the Cardinals found themselves down 36-23. That is when Head Coach Chris Richardson went to his bench and got some contributions from some of the young guys to end the half. Caleb Murray checked in for the first time and hit a layup to get Wheeling back on the board and a Coleman layup got the Cardinals just shy of 30 points. With one-minute left in the half, Raef Wykes would get his team there with a three-pointer for his first points of the game. However, as the teams broke for the locker room, the Cardinals found themselves trailing 56-30.
Coming out of the second half, the Cardinals offense would begin to find their groove, scoring 47 points over the final 20 minutes of play. Junior Trey Stoffer got the half started with a three-pointer and added another a minute later as Wheeling cut into the West Virginia State lead to make it a 59-37 game. Johnson added a layup and Price put up a jumper to get the Cardinals over the 40-point mark. After the first media timeout passed, Korte would hit a pair of free throws and made it 68-45. The Cardinals would add just three more free throws over the next five minutes with Korte and S.J. Hutchinson each hitting free throws. As the 10 minute mark passed, the Cardinals trailed 85-51. Johnson added two more free throws over the next two minutes and West Virginia State would hit the 90 points mark go make it a 90-53 game.
As time ticked away, Murray built off his big game against Davis & Elkins as he led the way down the stretch. He notched eight of his 10 points during the final eight minutes, that included two dunks and a pair of free throws. Dozie Enyosiobi came in and added a free throw, while Raef Wykes brought his voice total to five with a pair of free throws. The Cardinals would shoot 36.84% from the floor in the second half and were outscored by just seven points over the game's final 20 minutes. In the end, a Murray dunk would end the game and the Cardinals fell 111-77. The loss dropped Wheeling to 3-13 in MEC play and they look to continue to battle to hold onto their #10 seed in the MEC Tournament as they continue through February.
Leading the way for the Cardinals was Sophomore Marcus Johnson, who finished with 18 points and a team-high nine rebounds on the night. He was one of three Cardinals who finished in double figures on the day as the team shot 35.6% from the floor. John Korte would finish second on the team with 13 points and was the second highest rebounder on the team with eight. Caleb Murray was the final double digit scorer for the Cardinals, finishing with 10 points. It was the second time that Murray has been in double digits in the last three games as he continues to play a bigger and bigger role in the Wheeling offense down the stretch. With six more games on the schedule, Wheeling looks to bounce back and get back on the right track over the final three weeks of the season.
The Wheeling University Men's Basketball team returns to action on Wednesday, February 8th, when they hit the road to face Concord at 7:30 PM.