West Virginia State didn’t do itself any favors heading into probably the toughest stretch of its Mountain East Conference schedule all season.
The Yellow Jacket men suffered a 77-71 loss at Frostburg State Wednesday evening that left coach Bryan Poore scratching his head as his team prepares for a three-game stretch against Fairmont State (4-2), the University of Charleston (7-2) and Glenville State (6-1) in the next eight days.
All three of those opponents are in virtual ties for the top spot in their respective MEC divisions. Fairmont, which sits atop the MEC North with West Liberty, provides the first test when it pays a visit to the Jackets’ Walker Convocation Center in Institute at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Fans are still not permitted to attend MEC athletic events due to COVID-19 protocols.
West Virginia State doesn’t go into that gauntlet with much momentum following its loss at Frostburg, which came into the contest at 2-5 while the Yellow Jackets were 6-1 and riding a six-game winning streak. The homestanding Bobcats shot out to a 25-point first-half lead, and even though the Yellow Jackets were able to get back in front in the second half, they faltered down the stretch.
“I think first off, we weren’t ready to play,’’ Poore said. “That was simply our problem. We need to be more focused. Were we overlooking them? Probably so, because our guys know that the stretch we have coming up is going to be really difficult.
“We overlooked [Frostburg] and didn’t make shots, and they were making shots and got momentum and confidence. Then that snowball starts rolling and our basket tends to shrink and the opponent’s basket tends to get bigger and bigger. They’re 3-0 at home now, and you can’t give a team like that chances.’’
Poore regards that forgetful night as sort of a perfect storm that swept away his team’s chances, starting with senior guard Glen Abram, the MEC’s top scorer.
“It was tough,’’ he said. “Glen Abram had probably the worst game of his career — 0 of 7 from 3[-point range]. He’ll never play that bad again. It happens. At least I was proud of them in the second half. We battled back and took the lead and had a chance.’’
Poore was encouraged by his team’s next practice after that game, but it still left him wondering.
“We spent the day on us, executing offense and defense and things we need to get better at,’’ Poore said. “I’m in my 22nd year of being the head coach, and this happens quite a lot. We practiced way better than we played. It’s frustrating, almost sickening. I stopped practice at one point and said, ‘Where was this last night?’ But they’re kids and you have to deal with the ups and downs.’’
Abram continues to lead the MEC in scoring at 23.6 points per game, and Yellow Jackets teammate Jeremiah Moore (19.7) is also among the league’s top 10 scorers. Anthony Pittman sits atop the MEC rebounding list (12.1 per game) and also averages 17 points. Moore (9.5) stands fifth in MEC rebounds.
Fairmont State relies on the duo of Isaiah Sanders (17.3) and Dale Bonner (17.0) for its points. The Yellow Jackets (94.0) and Falcons (91.2) rank second and fourth, respectively, in MEC team scoring.
The women’s game between the two schools is set to tip off at 2 p.m.
West Virginia State (5-3) features the league’s second highest-scoring team (92.3) and is led individually by Destiny Fields (15.8) and Charity Shears (13.6). The Falcons (3-6) are paced by MEC scoring leader Sierra Kotchman (23.7).
UC’s men and women have Saturday off and will next suit up on Monday for a doubleheader at Wheeling, with the women scheduled for a 5 p.m. start and the men at 7:30.