CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A week ago, the University of Charleston men's basketball team was riding on top of the Division II world after knocking off No. 1 West Liberty.A week later, a "Black Monday" hit the Golden Eagles hard, as black-clad Seton Hill humbled them 64-58 at Eddie King Gym.Terrell Lipkins played just nine minutes with back spasms, but that wasn't the only factor by far in the Eagles (12-3, 8-3 West Virginia Conference) getting popped in the snout. The Griffins (9-7, 6-6) scored the first seven points of the second half, took the lead for good with 14 minutes left and repelled all runs thereafter.UC coach Mark Downey said he talked about this possibility for a solid week, beginning a day after the buzzer rang on their 101-96 toppling of the Hilltoppers.
"We told our guys all week: You go ahead and lose this game, the West Lib game doesn't mean anything," he said. "The West Lib win doesn't mean anything. The win that we got that we weren't supposed to, we just gave back." And the Griffins eagerly ripped it away, limiting UC to its season low in point production. Accordingly, the Griffins forced 20 turnovers, limited the Eagles to 34.4 percent shooting. Malachi Leonard did what West Liberty couldn't do a week ago, send back six UC shots, mostly on forays into the lane.The Griffins turned deadly on offense in the second half, shooting 57.1 percent and hitting five of their eight 3-point tries. They also went 16 of 20 from the line, which helped blunt any hope of a UC rally in the final minutes. It didn't matter that they were outrebounded 43-29.
They also kept the pace to a manageable level, taking advantage of Lipkins' absence. As the game wore on, they went deeper into the shot clock, an unusual strategy in the WVC wars."These guys are so athletic, they're so well-coached and they're so good in the open court, and we wanted to do our best to help negate that in some way," said Seton Hill assistant Josh Turnpaugh. "I think with Lipkins playing limited minutes [nine], that was a bonus, and I know that hurts them in a way because he's a phenomenal player, but our guys were able to overcome, persevered."[UC had] a couple of late runs. We stayed calm, collected, together. With coach [Tony] Morocco not here [because of illness], those are his words. That's exactly how he wants it, and we can't be more happy for Coach."Max Kenyi led the Griffins with 20 points, while Nate Perry had 16, helped by four second-half 3-pointers.
Perry scored the first five points of the second half, wiping out UC's 28-25 lead. He hit another 3-pointer to give Seton Hill the lead back at 35-33, and Kenyi scored the next two baskets on layups, one off a steal.The lead stretched to nine points, 50-41 and 55-46, on Perry 3-pointers. UC's best late surge cut a 57-49 lead to 57-54, but that took way too much time (2 minutes, 21 seconds) and too many wasted possessions (three). There was just 1:29 left after Aleksander Kesic's layup cut the deficit to three.Kenyi then scored his team's final five points, hitting two free throws with 1:19 left and converting a back-breaking three-point play with 49 seconds left. UC had no chance to tie or take the lead.Xavier Humphrey scored 12 points to lead UC, but had just two after halftime. Robbie Dreher, the only player to shoot north of 50 percent, had 10 in 14 minutes.
Kesic went 2 of 8 from the floor, Humphrey 5 of 13 and Evan Faulker 2 of 12. Kesic and Faulkner fell victim to four of Leonard's blocks inside.It was a far cry from the West Liberty game, when the Eagles drove inside and almost scored at will, whether by layups or free throws. As Downey tells it, UC was "out-toughed.""Going soft. We were worried about that guy blocking shots; we told them about it," Downey said. "We preached 'get to [Leonard]' all week, he jumps at everything. He's going to jump out of the gym if you give him any kind of head fake or shot fake."You can't give shot-blockers space, and all we did in the first half was, one foot, flip it up, try to score over top of him, try to 'quick' it to the basket. And he sent it five or six times."Now relegated to fifth place, the Eagles will try to bounce back at 7:30 p.m. Thursday against Wheeling Jesuit, also at King Gym.Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.