INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- Coach Bryan Poore's roster has the most first-year players in his 14 seasons at West Virginia State, leaving him with an assortment of headaches and challenges.Sorting through all those new faces was especially difficult in the season's first 10 games."At the end of the first semester,' said Poore, "I was very disappointed, very disappointed.''On Saturday night, however, a bit of progress showed through. Playing with the kind of effort and efficiency that pleased the coach, the Yellow Jackets took control in the second half and pulled away to defeat Glenville State 105-92 at Institute. A crowd of about 200 attended.
Anton Hutchins, a 6-foot-4 junior guard from Lima, Ohio, is one of the roster's many new faces and, by scoring 33 points against the Pioneers, helped the Jackets (5-6) break out of their early-season doldrums. He hit 11 of 17 from the floor, including 3 of 5 from 3-point distance, and collected 10 rebounds. Putting a team together takes time, said Hutchins."It's all about making progress,'' he said. "When guys come in on a new team, it's all about chemistry and learning to play together. We had a couple of rough games, and our record was 4-6. But I was just thankful we came out here tonight and got the win and played well together.''
State and Poore are coming off an uncharacteristic season in which they finished eighth with a 12-10 West Virginia Conference record. In the five previous seasons, they had never placed lower than third and never lost more than six games in a WVC season.Despite last year's troubles, State entered this season as the No. 4 pick in the coaches' poll.Saturday's victory was State's first game since a 78-59 loss at Davis & Elkins on Dec. 15, a game that Poore likely will not soon forget. "At D&E, I thought we laid an egg and played uninspired, and I was really unhappy because of the effort,'' he said. "But I really liked the way we played tonight. We played with some passion and some intensity that we didn't really have all the time in the first semester. If we can continue to do that and continue to get better, we'll be a team to be reckoned with at the end of the year.''It also helped that point guard Jalen Walker and 6-8 forward Raymon Austin played on Saturday. Neither saw much action in the season's first 10 games, but Walker contributed 12 points, five rebounds and five assists, and Austin, who scored only two points in the first half, finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds in just 23 minutes.The victory leaves State with a 3-3 WVC record."We just have to keep getting better every day,'' said Poore. "We're not anywhere near where we can be.''The Pioneers (7-5, 3-4), who were picked 12th in the preseason poll, were led by D.J. Blanks' 32 points on 10-of-16 shooting and Jamel Morris' 25.