Wheeling Jesuit's Justin Fritts drives on Charleston's Terrell Lipkins.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Mark Downey's University of Charleston team might have gotten a better shot at a game-winning basket in the waning seconds Thursday night if it had played tougher the previous 39-plus minutes.Ultimately, UC's chances to snatch victory from Wheeling Jesuit rested on a rushed 3-point attempt by Evan Faulkner, which clanged away at the buzzer. That allowed the Cardinals to escape with a 68-67 victory at Eddie King Gym.The Golden Eagles were handed their second loss in a row after a then-monumental win over West Liberty. Now, Downey's team looks like any ordinary West Virginia Conference program.But not as tough.
There's a good reason why Faulkner didn't get such a good shot at the end. UC forced the Cardinals' Ben Siefert into a miss with about 8 seconds left, and opted to push the ball upcourt for the final shot. The problem for the Eagles: Wheeling had committed only eight fouls.Not for the second half, but for the entire game. For the half, the Cardinals had two fouls to give, and would happily have hacked any Eagle in their path, forcing a stoppage and an inbounds pass.Therefore, the Eagles had to cleanly avoid all defenders to get anything to the rim, and that's why Faulkner's shot wasn't the best look."They were going to foul us, so we had to play keepaway to get the ball down the court," Downey said. "So I'm yelling at Evan, 'Get a shot, because they're going to foul you, get a shot.' Instead of getting to the rim like I wanted to, we had to settle for a 3 just because they're running at us to foul us."Sure, Downey could have used a timeout to set up a play, but that would only give the Cardinals a better chance to use those two fouls."I thought it was smart that they didn't call a timeout," said Wheeling coach Danny Sancomb. "They pushed it up there and they got a shot with their best 3-point shooter."But not the best shot. And the Eagles, other than Terrell Lipkins and Quincy Washington, weren't getting the best shots against the Cardinals' zone. For the second game in a row, they weren't driving to the basket with the same fervor as they did 10 days earlier in the 101-96 win over West Liberty, then No. 1 in NCAA Division II.Lipkins, who was limited to nine minutes in UC's 64-58 loss Monday to Seton Hill, fired in 30 points, hitting 8 of 13 from 3-point range. Washington added 16 points, but the scoring fell off after that.Faulkner and Xavier Humphrey combined to shoot 1 of 13 from 3-point range, and the Eagles were 10 of 32 - way too many attempts for Downey's taste. And the Eagles were 3 of 6 from the line - way too few attempts for Downey's taste."How do you go a whole game and the other team only fouls you eight times? How does that happen?" Downey said. "You have soft guys. Guys that aren't very tough, guys that aren't attacking the rim, which is what we're supposed to have."Those not-so-tough Eagles were outrebounded by 10 in the first half, which allowed the Cardinals to draw even at 34 at the half. Freshman Justin Fritts helped that cause, hitting two quick 3-pointers before Siefert banked in a jumper at the buzzer.
UC (12-4, 8-4) never led in the second half, and Joe Prati's putback with 16:02 gave the Cardinals the lead for good. That margin stretched to 51-44, but Lipkins kept the Eagles close and his eighth 3-pointer made the score 68-67 with 1:27 left.Wheeling (8-8, 6-6) squeezed most of the 35-second clock before settling for a Recardo Gaddy 3-pointer, which missed. But in the scramble for the rebound, the ball went off a UC player, giving Wheeling the ball and a fresh shot clock with 43.8 seconds left.The Cardinals milked the clock again, and UC went for the stop without fouling. That led to Siefert's miss, which led to the game's suspenseful conclusion.That conclusion made the Cardinals 4-0 against Downey's UC teams, including a 79-76 decision in last year's NCAA tournament. It also finished a tough part of their schedule, which included three road games last week, an off day Monday and Thursday's trip to UC."We played at Shepherd, which is a four-hour trip," Sancomb said. "We went to Bluefield on Thursday night and we had a snowstorm and didn't get home until 6:05 in the morning. We went to West Virginia Wesleyan [Saturday]."So we had four games, went 3-1 on the road."
And now, UC gets another taste of the road, playing Alderson-Broaddus at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Fairmont State at 7:30 p.m. next Thursday and Ohio Valley at 4 p.m. on Feb. 2.Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.