WHEELING — The University of Charleston men’s basketball team’s double-double machine fired on all cylinders Friday afternoon and helped clear a path for the Golden Eagles into the Mountain East Conference tournament semifinals.
Devon Robinson finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead UC to a 71-59 win over West Virginia Wesleyan at WesBanco Arena. Charleston, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, will face third-seeded Fairmont State at 8:15 p.m. Saturday for a spot in the title game.
“I think there were probably two stretches — one late in the first half about three minutes long and one in the second half for about a couple minutes — that I thought we were really, really good,” UC coach Dwaine Osborne said after the game. “Those really proved to be the separator. I think we made enough plays, our experience came into play in some key moments and I’m really excited to play another day.”
The Golden Eagles (24-5) and Bobcats (12-18) traded leads for much of the first half until UC started pulling away in the waning minutes. Wesleyan’s last lead of the game disappeared with 3:26 left in the first half, when Lamont McManus’ layup tied the game at 20. Charleston outscored WVWC 12-5 to close the half with a 32-25 lead.
Charleston grew that cushion to as many as 14 points in the second half, thanks in large part to what Robinson was able to do down low. Friday’s was Robinson’s 15th double-double of the season. He’s the only player in the MEC to average double figures in both points and rebounds.
Seth O’Neal had a standout all-around game for the Golden Eagles, adding 15 points plus seven assists against just two turnovers, with five rebounds and two steals. McManus scored 12 points with four rebounds.
Luka Petrovic and Daylin Lee each scored 18 points to lead Wesleyan.
West Virginia State 66, Wheeling 61: A scoring barrage to start the second half put the Yellow Jackets in Saturday’s 6 p.m. semifinal game with No. 1 seed West Liberty. Down 35-27 at the half due to a scoring drought lasting more than five minutes, WVSU reversed those fortunes to start the second.
The Yellow Jackets outscored Wheeling 23-6 to start that period and led by as many as nine. The Cardinals did their best to carve into that lead late in the game, trimming State’s advantage to 64-61 with 23.8 seconds left, but the Yellow Jackets were able to hold Wheeling at bay from the free-throw line. Glen Abram made 3 of 4 in the final seconds.
WVSU’s leading scorer, Abram led all scorers in Friday’s game with 30 points, while former Capital High standout Anthony Pittman recorded a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds in his MEC postseason debut.
State did plenty of damage against the Cardinals from the 3-point line. The Yellow Jackets hit 8 of 16 from beyond the arc. Abram led the way, hitting 5 of 8 3-pointers.
Jordan Reid led Wheeling with 24 points. WVSU held Wheeling to 32.4-percent shooting from the floor for the game.
While the Yellow Jackets will take on the tournament’s top seed, they’ll enter Saturday’s game knowing they already enjoyed a win over West Liberty this year. The two teams split their two games in the regular season. The Hilltoppers took their game at West Liberty 112-84 on Dec. 13, while WVSU beat WLU 96-93 in Institute.
Fairmont State 77, Glenville State 70: The Pioneers kept themselves in the game with the Falcons, but Fairmont State used a combined 46 points from Dale Bonner and Kenzie Melko to advance to Saturday’s semifinals against UC.
GSC led by as many as seven points early, going ahead of Fairmont 9-2, but once the Falcons secured the lead they never relinquished it. Glenville was able to cut Fairmont’s s lead to one point twice late in the second half but could not get over the hump.
Bonner scored 24 points and Melko scored 22 for the Falcons (23-6). Hegel Augustin led Glenville (14-15) with 22 points, while Steven Verplanken added 20 and former Marshall player Phil Bledsoe added 16 points and 13 rebounds.
West Liberty 100, Concord 85: Top-seeded West Liberty scored 36 points off 24 Concord turnovers to advance in their quarterfinal matchup.
Will Yoakum scored 27 points with eight rebounds while Pat Robinson finished with 22 points, eight rebounds, five steals and five assists and Luke Dyer added 16 points for the Hilltoppers (24-4). Trey Brisco finished with 26 points to lead the Mountain Lions (12-17), while Ethan Heller added 17 and Malik Johnson finished with 12.
The Hilltoppers advance to the semifinals at 6 p.m.m Saturday against the winner of Friday’s late game between West Virginia State and Wheeling.