Second Half Push Not Enough as Wheeling Falls to West Liberty on Senior Day
Wheeling, W. Va. – The Alma Grace McDonough Center was a packed house on Saturday afternoon as the Wheeling Men's Basketball team (9-18, 8-14) welcomed in rival West Liberty University. The Cardinals honored their class of eight seniors in front of a capacity crowd but fell to the Hilltoppers 109-94. The Cardinals made a big offensive push in the second half of the game, but it wasn't enough to overcome a 15 point halftime deficit.
Coming out of the locker room, Wheeling found themselves behind 57-42 and was looking for a way to get back into the game. Senior Jordan Reid made the first two buckets of the second half, and Wheeling scored six of the first eight points to make it a 59-48 game. However, West Liberty retained control of the game, going on a 10-1 run that made it a 69-49 game with 16:04 left to play. Seniors Jordan Reid, Jarett Haines, and Brent Price would each add buckets over the next three minutes, but the 20-point deficit remained with 13 minutes left to play. Reid and Price each added one more bucket and entered the final 10 minutes of the game trailing 80-61.
Another Wheeling senior, Jay Gentry sparked the Cardinals over the final 10 minutes of the game and began that stretch with a three-pointer. The Cardinals put together their best run of the game over the next two minutes, scoring nine of 12 points to cut the West Liberty lead down to 85-70. Gentry added another big three-pointer and John Korte made a layup and the deficit was cut to 14 with six minutes to play. The Cardinals wouldn't get any closed in the game as both teams kept scoring as time ran down. Wheeling totaled 52 points in the second half, but the Hilltoppers matched that 52-point output and brought the game to its final score of 109-94.
It was a big offensive day for the Cardinals, as they had three different players score 20+ points in the game. Leading the way was senior Jay Gentry, who had his best game of the season scoring 24 points in the loss. He shot 8-13 from the floor and made a season-high six three-pointers in the game, setting a new season-best in both categories. Jarett Haines and Jordan Reid each added 20 points of their own with Reid falling just short of a double-double. Reid tied for the team lead with seven rebounds as he, John Korte, and Andrew Taylor all reached that mark. Reid also led the passing game with four assists as Wheeling's offense gained momentum heading into the playoffs.
The game didn't start nearly as well as it ended for the Cardinals with the Hilltoppers jumping out to the early lead. They scored the first four points of the game before Wheeling battled back to make it an 8-4 affair. The Hilltoppers scored the next seven points and 12 of the next 13 points as they stretched their lead to 2?0-5. Reid drew a big foul to start the run and came to the free-throw line, nailing both of his tries. That got the Cardinals offense going again as Jarett Haines added a three and Wheeling slowly worked their way back into the game. They worked on a 9-2 run and made it 22-14 with 11 minutes to go in the first. However, the game of runs continued as West Liberty went on an 8-2 run and made it a 30-1 game halfway through the first.
For the rest of the game, the Cardinals were playing catch-up as they tried to battle back against West Liberty. Wheeling got to within 12 points thanks to a layup from Jordan Reid that made it 32-20, but another West Liberty run opened up the game once again to 40-22. The Cardinals continued the back and forth, and outscored West Liberty 20-17 over the final six minutes of the first half. However, the Cardinals trailed 57-42 heading into the locker room before the offense got going in the second half. As a team, Wheeling again shot over 50% from the field and added a 64.3% mark from the field. They are making their shots, which is a good sign for the offense heading into the MEC Tournament.
The Wheeling Men's Basketball team returns to action for the 2022 Mountain East Conference (MEC) playoff tournament. They are the #9 seed and will face #8 seeded Glenville State in their first-round game on March 2nd with tip-off at 8:30 pm.