UC's Xavier Humphrey defends a shot by West Virginia State's Dominic Phillips.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In building a first-half lead that reached 18 points, the University of Charleston offered a glimpse, as well as a continuation, of its recent success. "We're pretty much rolling now,'' said UC guard Denzel Douglas. "We've got the train going.''Although they faltered a bit in the second half, the Golden Eagles stayed in command, never allowing the lead to slip below nine, and defeated West Virginia State 90-77 Thursday night at Eddie King Gym. A crowd of about 1,000, including the UC pep band, contributed to a lively atmosphere.For the Golden Eagles (11-4, 8-3 Mountain East), it was their sixth straight victory and fifth in a row over the Yellow Jackets. State (7-7, 4-7) started the season slowly but had won six of its previous eight, including three of four on the road.
"I think we're playing the best we've played to date,'' said first-year UC coach Dwaine Osborne. "I think in the last two weeks we've gotten a lot better as a team. The encouraging thing for me is that we still have a lot of things that we can really improve upon and get better. We're a team with a new coach, new system, and we're settled in, but there's still refining and fine-tuning. We're not hitting on all cylinders yet. But we're moving in that direction.''Added Douglas, "We're very unselfish. We pass the ball. We have good ball movement and take good shots.''With their excellent ball movement and shot selection, the Golden Eagles shot 54.4 percent for the game, led by Tino diTrapano's 9-for-13 shooting and 28 points, which included 8 of 10 from the line. Douglas added an 8-of-10 effort from the field for 19 points. UC also dominated the boards 43-29."We got out of character tonight,'' said State coach Bryan Poore, "and I was concerned about that going in. It was a big game. I thought we were a little overhyped and a little overexcited. We kind of lost focus. We had all kinds of energy but we didn't have any focus with it, and we didn't execute, and [UC] did. Give them credit. They handled the big-game atmosphere better than we did tonight.''Leading 47-29 late in the first half and 73-55 with 6:09 left in the game, UC looked home free, but the Yellow Jackets began a modest rally, cutting the deficit to 78-69 on an Anton Hutchins basket with 1:51 left.
But from there, Xavier Humphrey converted 6 of 6 free throws and diTrapano sank 4 of 4 from the line to help restore the lead to 16 in the final minute. "We had our chances. I was proud of them,'' said Poore. "We battled back. We had it down to 10, and Angelo [Sirianni] had that 3 [attempt] in the corner that could have cut it to seven. There were still three minutes left, and you never know what's going to happen then. We just have to learn from it.''With his team leading by 47-31 at halftime, Osborne decided to slow the tempo - a strategy he regretted. "We held the ball a little too early,'' said the UC coach. "I got us out of rhythm. I just didn't do a very good job. But I've got good players, and they make me look a lot better than I really am.''In addition to diTrapano's and Douglas' scoring, UC picked up 19 points and 11 rebounds from Humphrey and 13 points and eight rebounds from Aleksander Kesic.For State, Hutchins totaled 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting. Bo King, whose arrival nine games ago sparked the Jackets to six wins in eight games, scored 15 on 5-of-16 shooting. Dimitrios Jelen-Joy came off the bench to score 10.
Reach Mike Whiteford at firstname.lastname@example.org.