Golden Eagles hold off Concord
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The game's decisive play might have been the offensive rebound in the final minute by the University of Charleston's 6-foot guard, Denzel Douglas.
"Huge,'' UC coach Dwaine Osborne said later, raising his voice noticeably.
Or the decisive play might have been the 3-point try by Concord's Cam Shannon that rimmed out in the final seconds.
"The basketball gods knocked that one out,'' said Mountain Lion coach Kent McBride.
Whether by luck or design, the breaks clearly favored the Golden Eagles down the stretch, helping them to a 64-59 victory Wednesday night at Eddie King Gym. A crowd of about 350 ratcheted up the noise in the final minutes.
The victory capped off a rewarding day for the Golden Eagles, who retained their precious No. 4 spot in the NCAA Division II regional rankings and, at 15-6 in the Mountain East Conference, moved into sole possession of second place.
In addition, they extended their win streak to five, though they've been falling far short of domination.
"This league is unbelievable,'' said Osborne. "It's a war every single night.''
The Mountain Lions, who earlier in the season suffered a 10-game losing streak, gave the Golden Eagles all they wanted.
They led by three midway through the second half and trailed only 60-59 and had the ball with 1:31 left. But shortly after a timeout, they turned it over.
And when UC's Aleksander Kesic drove the lane and missed, Douglas materialized out of nowhere for the offensive rebound.
Douglas, a senior, then drove to the basket, drew a blocking foul and hit both free throws for a 62-59 lead with 27 seconds remaining.
"It was a compliment to our guys that we made some huge plays at huge times,'' said Osborne. "That's what I've been talking to our guys about - championship teams figure out ways to win when you haven't been playing well, to make those key plays, to make those key stops.''
Nevertheless, the Mountain Lions (8-19, 5-16) still had a chance, but Shannon's good look at the 3-pointer to tie the game with seven seconds left didn't quite bear fruit.
"Hopefully, the basketball gods will even 'em out over my career,'' said McBride.
UC senior Fred Simpson rebounded Shannon's miss, was fouled and converted both free throws with a half-second left.
"There at the end of the game," said McBride, "their seniors stepped up and made senior plays. They got an extra offensive rebound. That's why Charleston is where they are. Down the stretch, they made the plays that got them a couple of extra possessions. Those guys win games because they don't make mistakes and they gain extra possessions. And we knew that.''
UC, which has wrapped up a first-round bye for next week's MEC tournament, led 35-27 early in the second half but couldn't put the Mountain Lions away.
"I don't feel like we played very well,'' said Osborne. "Now some of that is a compliment to Kent [McBride] and Concord because I think he does an unbelievable job. They forced a lot on us so that we didn't play well.''
Said Aleksander, "We picked it up in the second half, but we definitely have to pick it up more. We have to reach our peak in the tournament."
The 6-foot-8 Aleksander, who scored 27 points on 10-of-10 shooting in UC's victory over Notre Dame College on Saturday, had another big night. He led his team's scoring with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including 2 of 3 from 3-point distance, and collected 13 rebounds.
Xavier Humphrey, who sat out 12 minutes of the first half in foul trouble, added 15 points for the Golden Eagles. Simpson came off the bench to contribute 12 points and seven rebounds.
Shannon led Concord with 14 points, and Terry Hopewell and Aaron Miller had 12 each.