#7 Glenville State def. #10 Wheeling, 96-84
WHEELING – A 24-9 spurt in the final 8:21 of the opening half helped seventh-seeded Glenville State break open a close game with 10th-seeded Wheeling University and cruise to a 96-84 victory in the opening round of the annual Mountain East Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament Wednesday evening here at WesBanco Arena.
The Pioneers’ dynamic backcourt duo of Jordan Turbo Smith and Freddie Word combined for 18 of GSU’s 24 points on the game-changing run as they both tallied nine points en route to double-figure scoring performances. Smith finished with a game-high 27 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while Word ended up with 22 points and three assists.
“We kinda feel like we’ve got to set the tone for our team,” Word said. “When we get going, the team gets going.”
“Honestly I feel like for us that run started on the defensive end,” Smith said. “We had a huddle on the court before a free throw and we just said ‘We’ve got to get some stops. It’s time to go.’ Right then we all locked in. We got some stops and on offense our teammates found us, we scored the ball, made the right reads and handled business like we’re supposed to do.”
Wheeling’s Marcus Johnson, who led the Cardinals with 25 points and 10 rebounds, says Smith and Word were a handful for his team’s defense Wednesday night.
“They’re hard to guard because they’re so quick, fast and downhill all of the time,” said Johnson. “We didn’t rotate fast enough to stop the open three. They kinda put us in scramble mode on defense and they were either getting to the rim or getting kick outs for open threes.”
The victory improved the Pioneers to 17-12 on the year and earned them a berth in the quarterfinals Friday at noon against second-seeded Fairmont State (22-6). Glenville swept the regular-season series with the Falcons winning 88-83 in Fairmont and 85-84 in overtime in Glenville.
“Tonight I thought we played pretty well, especially in the first half to create a little of that separation,” said Pioneer coach Justin Caldwell. “When you hold a team to 30 percent from the field and 12 percent from three like we did in the first half you’re going to set yourself up to win a lot of games.
“I thought we did a pretty good job, especially in the first half of defending which plays to our strength. When we can get stops, we can get the ball out in transition and we’re a transition basketball team.”
The Pioneers shot 42.5 percent from the field in the opening half, including a 7-of-19 showing from behind the 3-point line. GSU also turned Wheeling over eight times which led to 13 points and a 52-34 lead at the break. In the second half the Cardinals never got any closer than the final 12-point margin.
Wheeling finishes the season with a 6-23 record. Twelve of the Cardinals’ losses this season have been by single digits and 10 of those were by five points or less.
“There’s not much to say about today’s game,” Wheeling coach Chris Richardson said. “We didn’t play our best.
“For a team with our record we have had very few performances like that. There’s probably a lot of people surprised to see us here given our record. The most surprising thing for us today is our performance was not us. Give a lot of credit to Glenville State for that. We struggled to make shots and we struggled to pass and catch early. We have no excuses, though. We’re a no-excuse program.”
Wheeling played the contest without leading scorer and first-team All-MEC selection John Korte, who was sidelined with a reported back injury. Korte averaged 19.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest for the Cardinals during the regular season.
“There’s no question that hurt them,” Caldwell said. “He averages 19 points a game so he puts a lot of pressure on your defense.”
In addition to Smith and Word, Glenville got 20 points and five rebounds from Jacquez Yow and 11 points and three steals from De’Ante Petree.
Johnson’s double-double performance for Wheeling was complemented by Brent Price, who also posted a double-double scoring 20 points and grabbing a game-high 14 boards. The Cardinals also got 19 points and six rebounds from Andrew Taylor.
“We have a great group of young men on our team,” said Taylor. “We’ve got gym rats. Guys who will be in the gym every day. We’ve had our struggles this season. We had a lot of ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade this group of guys for nothing. Our togetherness as a team is amazing. Going into this off season we’re going to work our butts off and you’ll will see us again. I promise that.”
The Glenville win extended the winless streak for No. 10 seeds in the tournament to nine straight games. No 10th-seed has ever won a game in the MEC Men’s Basketball Tournament. In the 2021 Covid-shortened season divisional seeding was used for the tournament so there was no No. 10 seed.
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