Fairmont, W. Va. – They say defense wins championships, and it was defense that was put on display Wednesday night inside the Feaster Center at Fairmont State University. Unfortunately, the Wheeling University Women's Basketball team (12-13, 10-9) would come out on the losing end of the defensive battle when they fell to Fairmont State 62-45. After going shot for shot with the Falcons over the first 20 minutes, the Cardinals could not get back into double figures in any quarter for the remainder of the game.
Shamia Strayhorn would get her big night started with a jumper and a few possessions later, Shanley Woods added a three that had the Cardinals out in front 7-3. Fairmont State made it a two point game with a jumper, but Fatima Mohammad quickly responded with a three-pointer and the Cardinals were up 10-5 just under four minutes of the game. A three-pointer from Fairmont State's Leslie Huffman made it a three-point game and we headed into the first media timeout with the Cardinals leading 10-7. The Falcons would tie it up with four minutes to go in the quarter and Lauren Calhoun and Strayhorn would each hit jumpers to get Wheeling back in the lead. At the end of the quarter, Wheeling was ahead 14-13 and looking to keep the offense going.
The Falcons quickly took that lead back on a three-point play, but Mohammad would hit another three to tie things at 16-16. The teams traded the next six points and that would be a growing theme through the second quarter. The lead would change hands three times over the first six minutes of the quarter until Fairmont State led 25-23 with 3:26 to go before halftime. A layup from Fairmont's Katy Darnell would extend the Fairmont lead to 27-23 before the Cardinals got back into the game. Taylor Cullen would hit her first three pointer of the night and Jacqui Hinesmon added a free throw to tie the game up at 27-27. Neither team would get on the board over the final minute 52 of the quarter and the teams went into the locker room with the game tied at 27-27.
As they came out for the third quarter, Fairmont State came out hot, scoring six straight points to take their biggest lead of the night at 33-27. Strayhorn would break the run with a jumper that brought it to 33-29 and, after another Fairmont State layup, the score sat at 35-31 when Kenzie Dalton added a two-pointer of her own. However, the Fairmont State defense was stout throughout the third quarter, and held Wheeling to just eight points, with Strayhorn and Calhoun hitting the only other jumpers of the quarter. Fairmont State would add 18 points of their own and after three quarter, Wheeling was trailing 45-35 as the Cardinals tried to get things going over the final 10 minutes of the game.
Graci Fairman got the Cardinals on the board in the first minute with a layup, but Fairmont State continued their run, scoring seven of the next 11 points to take a 54-39 lead. The Cardinals would once again be held to single digits in the quarter and Strayhorn accounted for five of the team's seven points over the final 20 minutes. Fairmont State just kept scoring, adding 20 more points over the final 10 minutes and they went on to win the game 65-42. The Cardinals dropped to 10-9 in MEC play with the loss, but because Concord fell to West Liberty the Cardinals have officially clinched a first round bye in the MEC Tournament.
Leading the way for the Cardinals was Shamia Strayhorn, who finished with 13 points on the night and continues her steak of double digit efforts. She has now been in double digits in three straight games and four of the last five games for the Cardinals. Lauren Calhoun was the only other double digit scorer for the Cardinals, finishing with 11 points, while leading the defense with 13 rebounds to pick up the double double. Eight different Cardinals would get involved in the offense on the night, but no one else would score more than four points in the game. The Cardinals now head into senior day looking to turn things around and get momentum on their side heading into the tournament.
The Wheeling University Women's Basketball team returns to action on Saturday, February 18th, when they take on Frostburg State on senior day.