"We need to get him back. He has been practicing," Downey said. "I haven't felt really comfortable getting him back in there, but I want to get him some time [today], get his feet wet."
State (9-13, 6-10) is enjoying its first two-game winning streak of the season and is trying to climb from 10th place to at least eighth by season's end. A finish below eighth puts State in the rare position of traveling for the first round of the WVC tournament.
Fairmont (15-5, 13-3) is coming off a loss to Wheeling Jesuit but won five straight before that and lost just 82-77 to West Liberty. On Jan. 14, the Falcons pelted State 88-60.
The Yellow Jackets are coming off a 111-97 win over future Mountain East Conference rival Urbana (Ohio), in which Raymon Austin scored 19 points and 10 rebounds. Anton Hutchins is scoring almost 18 points per game over the last five games, pushing his team-high average to 15.1.
But what State coach Bryan Poore needs is for Jalen Walker, who had 15 points against Urbana, to pick up the pace.
"He's had some flashes," Poore said. "Up at Wheeling [85-73 loss on Jan. 28], the first half he was awful and the second half he was outstanding - 5 for 5 from 3 and penetrating to the basket. We need him to become a little more consistent and become a better quarterback."
After today, State doesn't play at home until the regular-season finale Feb. 23 against UC. The Jackets play at A-B on Monday, Ohio Valley on Thursday, Concord on Feb. 18 and Bluefield State on Feb. 21.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsm...@ wvgazette.com, or following him at twitter.com/dougsmock.