MBB: Charleston, West Liberty Advance to Set Up Championship Showdown

MBB: Charleston, West Liberty Advance to Set Up Championship Showdown

Tournament Central

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#1 Charleston def. #4 West Virginia St., 104-85

Box Score | Press Conferences

WHEELING – For the University of Charleston the third time was indeed a charm. 

The top-seeded Golden Eagles, who lost twice during the regular-season to rival West Virginia State, exacted some revenge here Saturday evening against the fourth-seeded Yellow Jackets in the semifinals of the annual Mountain East Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament at WesBanco Arena.

UC led from from the get-go Saturday quelling every attempt State made to claw its way back into contention and as a result recorded a 104-85 victory. The win improved the Golden Eagles to 26-4 and earns them a berth in Sunday’s championship game at 5 p.m. against second-seeded West Liberty. The Hilltoppers eliminated third-seeded Concord Saturday in the other semifinal.

State, on the other hand, fell to 20-9. The Yellow Jackets have a very slim chance of making the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional which will begin play next week.

“I thought tonight there was a different level of care than maybe what there was in the other games,” UC coach Dwaine Osborne said. “West Virginia State did a really good job against us in the regular season and I think our guys were really excited to play this one today.”

One UC player in particular who relished the opportunity to face the Yellow Jackets was Eddie Colbert. In the first two meetings with State, the MEC Player of the Year combined for just 25 points. Saturday, though, was a different story.

Colbert scored a career-high 36 points, 22 of which came in an outstanding offensive second half which saw UC as a team shoot 76 percent from the field (19-of-25), 88.5 percent from the foul line (23-of-26) and score 30 of its 64 second-half points in the paint.

“It’s my teammates having faith in me coming into this game,” Colbert said. “It was a big game – a rivalry. We wanted State last night and we got what we wished for. It couldn’t have been a better ending.”

The 36-point outing by Colbert was the seventh-highest, single-game scoring performance in a men’s MEC Tournament game.

Colbert led five Golden Eagles in double figures. UC also got 18 points from West Virginia State transfer Dwaine Jones, 15 points from Tyler Eberhart, 13 from DeAirius Barker and 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds from Shunta Wilson.

UC ended up shooting 60.7 percent from the field for the game and scored over half (54) of its 104 total points in the paint.

“I know I had voiced it personally throughout the film session that the second time we lost to them at the end of the season we weren’t even getting shot attempts because we were turning the ball over left and right,” UC’s Jones said. “I told the guys tonight as long as we value the ball I like our chances because we have smart enough players that we’ll make the right play and read the game correctly.

“I also told them I wasn’t a strong believer in State’s inside defense. Pitt (Anthony Pittman) carries a big load for them and him having to guard I don’t know. I said let’s attack him and see how it goes and it benefited us tonight for sure.”

State certainly did not play bad. The Yellow Jackets ended up hitting 43 percent of their shots from the field, 50 percent from 3-point range and got to the foul line 34 times themselves where they connected on 23. The problem was standout State guard/forward Anthony Pittman battled foul trouble for much of the second half and UC was just super efficient on offense in the final 20 minutes.

“Kudos to UC,” veteran State coach Bryan Poore said. “They were the aggressor, they got all of the 50-50 balls, they made shots and we just couldn’t get anything going.

“We knew it was going to be hard to beat them three times. It was certainly doable, but when a team shoots 76 percent against you in a half let’s be honest you’re not going to win that game.”

The Yellow Jackets were led by Mahzi Thames’ 29 points. He scored 21 of those in the second half.

“On any given night I feel like anyone in our first five or really even our first ten can have a good game,” Thames said. “Tonight was just my night. Me being a senior I didn’t want to go home like this, but it happens.”

State also got 16 points and seven rebounds from Anthony Pittman and 11 points and six boards from Arthur Cox.

The championship game appearance will be the fifth for the University of Charleston in the MEC Tournament. The Golden Eagles are 1-3 in their four previous title games. UC’s only tournament championship came in 2014 – the first season of the Mountain East Conference.

#2 West Liberty def. #3 Concord, 77-71

Box Score | Press Conferences

WHEELING – West Liberty erased a 15-point deficit to advance to the 2024 Mountain East Conference Men’s Basketball Championship game with a 77-71 victory over Concord on Saturday evening at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling.


With the win, the second-seeded Hilltoppers will face top-seeded Charleston for the 2024 men’s basketball title. The championship final will tip at 5 p.m. Sunday inside WesBanco Arena.


Concord grabbed its largest lead of the night at the 4:01 mark of the first half, and went to the locker room with a 34-25 lead over the ‘Toppers.


With Concord leading 42-32 at the 16:29 mark of the second half, West Liberty went on a 12-3 scoring run to pull within one following a pair of free throws by Zach Rasile at the 14:06 mark.


Neither team led by more than six points over the next 10 minutes.


With the game still tied (66-66) at the 3:44 mark of the second half, West Liberty would outscore the Mountain Lions 11-5 to close out the victory. Chaz Hinds and John Korte hit clutch 3-pointers during the stretch.


Korte scored a game-high 22 points in the victory. Kyler D’Augustino chipped in 12 points, while Christian Montague scored 11 points to go with six rebounds. Rasile also scored seven points.


West Liberty shot 40 percent (26-65) from the floor, but was 49 percent from the field in the second half during its comeback.

Concord shot just under 46 percent (25-55) from the floor.


Kollin Tolbert scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to lead the Mountain Lions. JJ Harper also chipped in 15 points and 10 rebounds.

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