Philippi, W. Va. – Entering Wednesday night's game, the Wheeling University Men's Basketball team (6-21, 4-17) had a chance to clinch a playoff spot. However, they were unable to get it done as they fell to Alderson Broaddus 86-76. The Cardinals will still have a chance to clinch a playoff berth on Saturday, after Frostburg State fell to Davis & Elkins, creating a scenario where a Wheeling win or a Frostburg State loss on Saturday will clinch the Cardinals the #10 seed.
Alderson Broaddus got the game started with five of the first seven points over the first two and a half minutes of play. Marcus Johnson made a layup to make it 5-4 and John Korte gave Wheeling their first lead of the game at 6-5 with a layup. After Alderson Broaddus retook the lead at 9-6, Johnson hit a layup before the Cardinals turned to the hot hand in sophomore William Gabbert. Gabbert hit a three-pointer following the media timeout to put Wheeling up 11-9, and he would add another jumper to get Wheeling to their biggest lead of the night at 13-9. The bench continued to provide strong support for the Cardinals as Kevin Coleman Jr. added five points over the next two minutes. A Korte three-pointer sent Wheeling into the media timeout with a 23-14 lead and they looked to keep it going before halftime.
However, the battle would continue as the Battler's Jon King added four points as part of a 6-3 run that made it a 26-20 Cardinal lead. Ryan Reasbeck accounted for the three Cardinals points with his first three ball of the night, and he added a pair of free throws later that put Wheeling up 30-24 with 4:42 to go in the first half. As the first half wound down, the Battlers slowly cut into the Cardinal lead, and with 1:49 left in the first half, Jalen Knott hit a three-pointer that gave the Battlers a 36-34 lead. Johnson added a three-pointer of his own in response, and accounted for seven of the Cardinal's final eight points of the half for the Cardinals. That effort was enough to send Wheeling into the locker room with the lead at 42-40.
It has been a back and forth battle throughout the first half, and that would continue over the game's final 20 minutes. Johnson hit a free throw coming out of the break and Andrew Taylor added a jumper that put Wheeling ahead 45-41. Wheeling held that lead until the 17:05 mark of the half, when a Coryon Rice three-pointer had the Battlers of 51-49. It was the first shot of a 7-0 Battler run that gave Alderson Broaddus their biggest lead of the night to that point. Korte broke the run with a jumper and hit the free throw to complete the three-point play and make it 55-52 heading into the media timeout. Defense would take over for the next four minutes, but Alderson Broaddus came out of it on a 12-1 run. They led 71-56 heading into the final 10 minutes and Wheeling would have to fight to stay alive.
Alderson Broaddus extended their lead to 19 points with 6:23 to play, but the Cardinals would begin that comeback effort. Johnson hit a three-pointer with 6:13 that would spark a 10-0 Cardinal run that quickly cut the Battler's lead to 79-70. With the Cardinals within striking distance, Johnson hit a layup to keep it a nine-point game and Wheeling would force the Battlers to have to get the job done from the free throw line. They responded by going 5-6 in three chances and putting the game out of reach. Johnson accounted for the final six Cardinals points over the last three and a half minutes of play, but when all was said and done Wheeling would gall to the Battlers 86-76.
Leading the way for the Cardinals was Marcus Johnson, who had a career-high 32 point effort in the game. He shot 13-20 (65%) from the floor in the night and included a 4-5 mark from the free throw line. John Korte was the other double digit scorers for the Cardinals, finishing with 16 points on the night and continuing his high scoring season. Johnson and Korte were also the top rebounders of the day for the Cardinals, finishing with nine and five rebounds respectively. Reasbeck added seven points off the bench, including another three and continues to be a spark plug for this team. With Frostburg State's loss to Davis & Elkins on Wednesday, the tie for the 10 seed remains heading into Saturday. Either a Wheeling win or a Frostburg State loss will clinch the Cardinals a playoff spot as they try and make a run in the MEC Tournament.
The Wheeling University Men's Basketball team returns to action on Saturday, February 25th, when they hit the road to face West Liberty with tip-off at 4 PM.