West Virginia State's Victor Sharpe passes off as he's defended by UC's Xavier Humphrey.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's not always easy to convince a largely out-of-state collection of players that a Kanawha County basketball rivalry holds rich rewards.Such rewards, of course, are familiar to Mark Downey, the University of Charleston's third-year coach and a UC alumnus. "Coach got us pumped,'' said UC guard Terrell Lipkins of Canton, Ohio, a junior-college transfer in his first season at the school. "He told us some history about how this game is such a rivalry.''Heeding their coach's words, the Golden Eagles dominated from the outset, limiting the Yellow Jackets to five points in the game's first 10 minutes, and breezed uncontested to a 92-56 victory Saturday night at Eddie King Gym.
A less-than-typical crowd of about 800 attended on a night when students at both school were still on semester break.The Jackets entered the game with a 15-5 record against UC in the previous 10 years. They defeated Downey twice in his inaugural UC season of 2010-11, and they split the two games last year. In preparation for Saturday's game, Downey updated his players on the recent State-UC imbalance. "He told us that [State] has won more games than we have throughout the rivalry,'' Lipkins added. "He said we really haven't had the best side of the rivalry. Coach has been here for a few years, and it's very important to him, so we had to have his back.''UC led 18-5 after 10 minutes, quickly increased it to 36-16 and, though State trimmed the deficit to 42-30 early in the second half, the Golden Eagles responded with another surge. They led 69-38 with 9:40 left in the game and never again faced the remotest of threats."We were ready to play,'' said Downey. "It was probably our best effort of the year so far. We just have to build on it. It's the first time we've really played 40 minutes.''"Most of the time,'' said Lipkins, "we really don't jump out to a fast start.''It was the sixth straight victory, including four straight on the road, for the Golden Eagles (11-2 overall, 7-2 in the West Virginia Conference)."They played extremely well, and we didn't,'' said State coach Bryan Poore. "UC was the aggressor for the whole night, and they had us on our heels. That's disappointing, and that sums it up.''State, which started the game with a 39.1 shooting percentage that ranked 13th in the WVC, shot just 36.8 percent (21 for 57)."We didn't have it,'' said Poore. "We didn't have the aggressiveness, the intensity, the focus and all that until UC got their confidence and got going. And then it was too hard to swing back the momentum.''
Normally in recent State-UC games, said Downey, the Yellow Jackets have been the aggressors."This was the opposite of what has happened since I've been here,'' he said. "We really wanted to prepare. We knew they were big and physical and wanted to pound the ball inside. We wanted to try and limit that and play fast. We wanted to push the tempo. Our guys did a great job of it, and when things started to go right, it seems that everything goes right.''Corey Jackson came off the UC bench to lead a balanced offense with 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Lipkins and Robbie Dreher added 14 points each, Evan Faulkner had 11 and Xavier Humphrey 10. UC outrebounded State 45-33.For State (6-8, 4-5), Anton Hutchins scored 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting. It was State's fifth loss in seven games.West Liberty, ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division II, will visit the Golden Eagles at 7:30 p.m. Monday. Reach Mike Whiteford at firstname.lastname@example.org.