#6 Davis & Elkins def. #3 Charleston, 77-72
WHEELING – It wasn’t easy, but it was certainly historic and enjoyable for Davis & Elkins College here Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the annual Mountain East Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament at WesBanco Arena.
The sixth-seeded Senators, who joined the Mountain East in 2019, recorded the school’s first-ever win in the league’s tournament eliminating third-seeded University of Charleston, 77-72.
“I so proud of the group because we found a way to win against a really, really good team,” D&E coach Daniel Mondragon said. “We were poised under pressure in the second half. In the first half we executed our game plan about as good as we could have. This is a big-time win for our guys and for our program.
The victory puts the Senators, who improved to 19-10, in the semifinals of the league tournament Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. against second-seeded Fairmont State (23-8). The Falcons eliminated Glenville State Friday, 77-72.
D&E’s last semifinal tournament appearance came when the Senators were members of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference in 2017. Prior to that their last tournament semifinal showing was in the 1959 West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament.
“It’s amazing,” said D&E senior guard Jordan Alexander, who finished with 14 points. “It’s a testament to our season. I think we had a lot of ups and downs. This may sound crazy but as much as I enjoyed the wins, I think I enjoyed the losses more. We’ve been battle-tested. We’ve been through pretty much every game situation possible – from up a lot to possibly losing to down a lot to possibly winning. Those games we lost early in the season, I think, prepared us for this tournament.
“We were up 25 and they came back. We had to really buckle down and lock in on defense as well as offense and we did that today. Like I said, the losses early on in the season prepared us for this moment well.”
In the game’s first 20 minutes D&E was nearly flawless, while UC struggled, playing arguably its worst half of basketball in recent memory. The Senators shot 62 percent from the field, 50 percent from three, out-rebounded the Golden Eagles by 14 and used a 30-10 spurt in the last 10:57 of the half to open what appeared to be a commanding 45-22 halftime advantage.
“We had four days to prepare for them and we went over all of their sets, their habits and what they do and we were focused and locked in on what they were going to do and what we wanted to do,” said D&E junior guard Sam Rolle IV, who led all scorers with 26 points and an MEC Tournament game-tying record six steals. “That’s a credit to our coaching staff.”
UC, on the other hand, made just five of its 27 first half field goals (18.5 percent), including a dismal 1-of-10 showing from long range (10 percent). The Golden Eagles also only had 11 rebounds at the break.
“To be totally honest with you I just didn’t think I did a very good job,” said veteran UC coach Dwaine Osborne. “Some of the play calling was terrible. I didn’t put us in some very good situations to do what we needed to do to be effective. At the end of the day that falls on me so I have to shoulder that and live with that.”
The second half, however, was a different story. UC, which holds the record for the largest second-half comeback in MEC Tournament history (11 points) nearly pulled off a miracle. By the midway point of the half Charleston had the contest back to a five-point game at 54-49.
“That first half by us was nowhere near what UC basketball is,” said Golden Eagle senior guard Keith Williams. “At halftime we had two choices – lay down or come back and fight. We decided to come back and fight and to do that we knew we had to do it together. We just couldn’t quite get it.
“Hats off to D&E. They stayed strong, continued to play the game and unfortunately we couldn’t come out with a win.”
Once UC got it to five, D&E quickly responded and got the margin back to nine and eventually 12 before the Golden Eagles made another surge. Charleston, which outscored D&E 50-32 in the second half, got within three twice in the final 40 seconds, but could get no closer.
The Senators also got 13 points and a game-high 10 rebounds from Breland Walton in the win. It was Walton’s fifth double-double of the season.
Williams paced UC with 17 points, seven rebounds and three steals. The Golden Eagles also got 13 points from Eddie Colbert III and 12 points from both Tyler Eberhart and C.J. Meredith.
The loss ended a streak of three straight appearances by UC in the conference tournament semifinals. The Golden Eagles finished the season with a 19-10 record.