WVU Tech's Terrale Clark drives to the rim during Saturday's game against Central State.
MONTGOMERY - After losing eight seniors from last year's squad and dealing with injuries and other departures, WVU Tech hit a rough patch early in the season, losing 8 of 10 games to drop to 8-9.But thanks to the efforts of seniors David Rawlinson and Terrale Clark among others, the Golden Bears have answered that stretch by winning 10 of their last 12 games and have improved immensely over that time.How much?Well, in mid-November, Tech was handed an 86-49 loss at Central State.On Saturday, against those same Marauders, the Golden Bears turned things around and notched an 89-69 win on senior night at the Neal D. Baisi Center. For those keeping track, that's a 57-point swing.Rawlinson and Clark were at it early and often, with Clark scoring a co-game-high 18 points. Rawlinson, meanwhile, was more in the giving mood, handing out a whopping 21 assists to go with 12 points, three rebounds, four steals and a pair of blocks.His 21 helpers matched Tech coach Bob Williams' career-high in his playing days in junior college, and both shared a laugh about that after the game.
"[Williams] challenged me earlier in the season - I'm going to run with this one until the wheels fall off," Rawlinson said with a laugh, referring to his imminent banter with Williams. "I can't wait for this.""He's going to be happy because he told me he was going to try and get my record," Williams said. "He showed why he should be an All-American. I don't think they realized how good he was in their scouting report because not many teams can go out and pressure him at halfcourt. You can't stay in front of him, he's too good."Indeed, Rawlinson was way too good on Saturday and the numbers show it. At halftime, Tech had 14 field goals. Rawlinson had one of them and assists on 11 others. In the end he had a hand in 24 of Tech's 32 made shots.
Rawlinson was able to register those assists early in large part to Clark's shot-making ability. The senior forward scored 12 of his points before the break, including nine of Tech's first 14.Rawlinson's playmaking ability along with the other Golden Bears' penchant for finishing allowed Tech to run up a quick 27-11 lead midway through the first half, and the deficit was never lower than nine thereafter."I think they took us lightly," Williams said. "They beat us by 37 at their place but it was the third game in three days after we won the Rio Grande tournament. We had played eight or nine games and we were tired and it was their season opener and they just drilled us. It just shows you in college basketball it's not easy to go on the road and win."Tech will have to figure out a way to do just that with its final two games coming on the road before hosting the Association of Independent Institutions (AII) tournament March 1-3 with an automatic berth into the NAIA tournament on the line.But behind Rawlinson, anything seems possible, including that very berth as the 6-foot guard came into Saturday's game sixth in the NAIA in scoring at 21.67 points per game and second in assists with 7.48 per contest.
Even after a performance like Saturday's, Rawlinson was in no mood to speak about individual achievements, his All-American candidacy, or anything else outside his team and its continued improvement.Instead, on senior day, he took a rare moment to reflect on the season itself."The coaches informed me that as a leader I had to be patient with new guys," Rawlinson said. "That's something I had to learn. This year has really taught me a lot with patience and communication with my teammates. This year we started out rough but it made us stick together. It made us come together as brothers and as a family and now our chemistry is really clicking for us. I think it's the perfect time to be going into this tournament."Brandon Burgraff added 13 points for the Golden Bears (18-10) and Jaren Marino scored 10 as all five starters ended the game in double figures.Lee Tabb's 18 points led the way for Central State (15-8), which had also won 10 out of its last 12 games. Charles McNeal added 16 points for the Marauders.Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.