#5 Notre Dame def. #4 West Virginia St., 92-79
WHEELING, W.Va. – Some say the third time is the charm. While that may not always be the case, it certainly rang true Friday night in a Mountain East Tournament quarterfinal at WesBanco Arena.
After falling twice to No. 4 West Virginia State (20-9 overall, 14-9 MEC) during the regular season, No. 5 Notre Dame College (17-12, 13-10) earned the sweetest revenge, as well as a date with top-seeded West Liberty at 6 tonight back at the same venue.
Obinna Ugwuakazi scored 22 points to lead five double-figure scorers and also grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds – three off the MEC Tourney record – as the Falcons held the Yellow Jackets to 34.6-percent shooting in a runaway victory.
“We talked over and over about guarding our yard. We knew they were very athletic and that we were going to have to guard 1-on-1,” Notre Dame coach Mark Richmond said, “We had to keep them in front of us.
“The first two games (against State) we were always playing catchup. They’re explosive, fast and can get back in it quickly.”
In fact, that was the topic in both locker rooms at halftime. NDC held State to 25-percent shooting in the first half en route to a 38-21 lead. Yet there was a sense that somehow, some way the Yellow Jackets were going to make things interesting. After all, a letdown would have been nothing more than human nature.
The Falcons weren’t about to let that happen, however. They opened the second half with three consecutive 3-pointers – one from Jamarr Talbert Jr. and a pair off the right hand of Tyland Crawford, to make it 47-21. Samier Kinsler – team-high 22 points – momentarily stopped the bleeding with a State bucket, but Crawford again responded from beyond the arc.
“It was huge,” W.Va. State coach Bryan Poore said. “If we can whittle it down to a 10- or 12-point lead, maybe we get them second-guessing themselves.
“But they hit those 3s and that obviously hurt. Notre Dame played outstanding and we need to give them their flowers.
“They advance and we go home.”
It turns out, the Falcons had learned their lesson just a few nights earlier against Alderson-Broaddus. They had a cushion in that one but ended up falling, 79-73.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Richmond said. “When you look at our balance, we had five guys in double-figures and that obviously is a good thing.
“And Obinna with 22 and 19, he played large. And Tyland hit some big shots for us, especially in the second half.”
This performance, Ugwuakazi said, was a byproduct of the confidence that has been instilled by the Falcons coaching staff.
“As of late I’ve really been playing better and Coach (Richmond) is giving me the minutes,” he said. “I’m just trying to help the team any way I can.
“Every shot that goes up is mine … every board. It’s just being tenacious.”
One stat in particular stood out to State’s Taevon Horton.
“You look at it and we had 10 assists. What was it, three at halftime?” he asked. “That has a lot to do with us missing shots.
“And a lot of the shots we were taking, especially in the first half, were tough shots,”
Crawford finished with 19 points and eight rebounds for the Falcons, while Jaedon Willis contributed 17 points, five rebounds and five assists. DeArius Baker added 13 points and a game-high seven assists while Talbert ended with 12 points.
For the Yellow Jackets, Horton, Noah Jordan and Anthony Pittman (team-best nine boards) all finished with 12 points to support Kinsler.