CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- His Fairmont State team offered an unacceptable defensive effort in a loss at Seton Hill on Feb. 21.
To rectify the situation as quickly as possible, Fairmont State coach Jerrod Calhoun told his players afterward that they would practice at 5 a.m. the next day. It was the earliest permissible time under NCAA rules; otherwise, Calhoun would have practiced as soon as the guys got off the bus.
The early practice left the team only a few hours of sleep, but it apparently delivered the proper message.
"We had to get everybody on the same page,'' said senior Isaac Thornton, "and we understand that. So we appreciated it.''
Playing much better defense this time, the Falcons opposed Seton Hill again Thursday afternoon in a West Virginia Conference men's quarterfinal game at the Charleston Civic Center and generally confined the Griffins' shooting to the perimeter in picking up a 77-63 victory.
A quiet crowd of about 600 contributed little to the tournament atmosphere.
The No. 2 Falcons (21-7) will face No. 3 Alderson-Broaddus in a semifinal at 6:30 tonight.
Fairmont built a 14-point halftime lead, which might have been even more substantial except that the No. 7 Griffins (16-12) hit 6 of 12 on 3-point attempts in the first 20 minutes. The Falcons raised the advantage to 19 midway through the second half, but SHU fought back and trailed by just 68-56 with less than four minutes left.
The difference, though, was defense. The Griffins shot just 34 percent (16 for 47) and scored only six 2-point field goals. They were 10 of 25 from 3-point distance.
"This team, in my opinion, plays the best defense in the league,'' Seton Hill coach Tony Morocco said of the Falcons. "They came after us, and in basketball there's a certain amount of panic that happens. When panic comes in there's frustration, and all of a sudden you start to unravel.''
Said SHU guard Oliver McGlade, "Their half-court defense is probably the best in the conference.''
The Griffins' poor shooting percentage was largely attributable to the Falcons' ability to force bad shots, said Calhoun.
"We forced them to take a lot of tough ones because we had good ball pressure,'' he said. "I've said all along that when we guard, we're pretty good. And we did that today.''
"We took away a lot of things they like to do,'' said senior Malik Stith, a St. John's transfer, who led his team with 25 points.