MONTGOMERY — The toughest stretch of the season is upon WVU Tech and the Golden Bears still have lingering questions.
Those popped up again Monday night as Shawnee State fended off Tech's second-half rally for a 77-70 decision. A crowd of about 200 at the Neal D. Baisi Athletic Center on Tech's campus saw the Golden Bears drop their third in a row.
There's no rest for the weary as Tech (8-4) hits the road for four games in six days. The Golden Bears play Wednesday at Division I Longwood in Farmville, Va., plays two games in a tournament Friday and Saturday at Bluefield College (Va.), then heads to Louisville, Ky., for a showdown with Bellarmine University.
"We knew this was a brutal stretch,'' said Tech coach Bob Williams. "This is the game [against Shawnee State] that you really needed to win. We told our guys we have to win this game.''
Williams even shook up the starting five in hopes of snapping out of the doldrums, but the Golden Bears fell behind by 12 points at halftime (36-24) after shooting 31.3 percent and never recovered.
"We've taken a couple of steps backward,'' said the Tech coach. "We had a long team meeting [Sunday] and it's disappointing to come out and play like this. Shawnee State outplayed us.
"We have a lot of new parts this year and I think some guys have been rattled recently. Our chemistry doesn't seem right and our leadership is in question on the floor.''
After back-to-back 3-pointers from senior forward Armond Perez and freshman point guard Ra'Shaud Kincaid pulled Tech within six points (65-59) with 5:11 left in the game, Shawnee State senior guard Trevor Banks knocked down a 3 for a 68-59 advantage.
The Golden Bears sliced their deficit to four points (72-68) on senior guard Brandon Burgraff's 3 and steal and layup with 1:23 to go, but Shawnee converted 5 of 7 from the free-throw line in the next 39 seconds to set the final score at 77-70. Tech didn't score again after junior forward Jauries Thomas made a layup to close it to five points (75-70) at the 42.7-second mark.
Burgraff, who is from Matewan, paced Tech with 19 points on 7 of 15 shooting, including 16 points in the second half. Perez chipped in 17 points and Thomas turned in 10 points and 15 rebounds for the Golden Bears.
"We had trouble scoring and [Shawnee State] made huge shots when they needed it,'' said Williams, who saw his team miss 19 shots from 3-point range (6 of 25).
"That's the first time we ran into that where we couldn't score. We made a lot of mistakes on both ends of the floor. We need to get better contributions from many people.''
Bank's 16 points led four players in double figures for Shawnee State, which shot 46.7 percent in the opening half.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at tatkin...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4811.