Tech coach would like to make tradition of Charleston visits
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Following a much-needed rest over the holidays, WVU Tech brings its traveling basketball road show to South Charleston Saturday night.
The Golden Bears (8-8) will take on Bluefield (Va.) College at 7 p.m. at the South Charleston Community Center, a move that could become a tradition for Tech. When the Bears bowed out of the old West Virginia Conference, it took them out of rivalries with West Virginia State and the University of Charleston.
"We played at Charleston Catholic [Athletic Complex] two years ago against Mountain State," said coach Bob Williams. "We want to play in Charleston - it's good for our alumni."
Tech did play State early in its schedule, though it counted as an exhibition game for the Yellow Jackets. Tech played a lot of games early, cramming 16 games between Oct. 26 and Dec. 20.
The Bears are suffering a seven-game losing streak, including a 97-62 loss to Bluefield on Dec. 7. That came in a withering stretch no right-thinking school would schedule - if it had the option. Three days (and two games) earlier, Tech lost 95-80 at Division I Longwood.
"Longwood, I probably shouldn't have taken that game," Williams said. "We overscheduled; that's the problem of being an [NAIA] independent. Plus we had injuries, we were not at full strength at the time."
Williams could get a boost underneath in 6-foot-7, 240-pound Stephen Coles, a one-time Lamar signee who transferred to Montgomery from Arkansas Tech. Coles, who began Tech classes last January, needs to be cleared by the NAIA, which no doubt has a large eligibility caseload nationally.
"He's done everything on his part," Williams said.
The University of Charleston and West Virginia State both hit the road for Saturday games, but UC returns home for a game at 7 p.m. Monday against Glenville State.
That brings the first reunion for UC coach Dwaine Osborne, who coached the Pioneers from 2005-09. He has a game to win, but he isn't downplaying the sentimentality.
"Glenville is a place I enjoyed," said Osborne, who coached at Texas-Permian Basin before returning to West Virginia. "My wife and I, both our kids were born there. Stephen Dye, the head coach, is my former assistant; he and I stayed in close contact, so it will be an emotional day in a lot of ways."
UC's roster has remained intact over the long holiday break, but the Golden Eagles are hoping for Hayden Annett's return from surgery on his foot. The 6-2 senior played one game this season, scoring 14 points Dec. 8 against Shepherd, and he definitely is day-by-day.
Perhaps quite a few days. When that foot heals enough to play, conditioning becomes the issue.
"It's something to watch and know the system, but it's another thing to actually do it, timing and stuff," Osborne said. "Everything's out of whack."
UC (5-3, 2-2) plays at West Virginia Wesleyan (7-5, 2-2) at 4 p.m. Saturday.
At the top of the heap, West Liberty (8-0, 4-0) picked up another first-place vote in the national coaches' poll, strengthening the Hilltoppers' claim as the top team in NCAA Division II.
In the poll announced Thursday, the Hilltoppers received 14 of 16 first-place votes, with No. 2 Bellarmine of Louisville, Ky., getting the other two. West Liberty has been ranked No. 1 24 times in the last four seasons, and is in the top five for the 31st consecutive poll.
Still, the Hilltoppers are tied for first in the Mountain East with Shepherd (also 8-0, 4-0). The teams face off next Thursday in Shepherdstown.
Bo King's return to the West Virginia State lineup had coach Bryan Poore sort of sorry to see the long Division II holiday break come.
The Charleston Catholic graduate scored 38 combined points and hit 7 of 16 3-pointers in the Yellow Jackets' victories over former league rivals Davis & Elkins and Bluefield State. It was a refreshing change from a four-game losing streak, including the top three MEC teams - West Liberty, Shepherd and Wheeling Jesuit (5-2, 3-1).
Navigating a broken foot in the fall and Division II rules, King enrolled at State part-time in the spring and fall semesters of 2013 before resuming full-time studies for spring 2014 - his eighth and final competitive semester. Not a moment too soon, as far as Poore is concerned.
"We didn't have a consistent shot-maker during the first semester," Poore said. "When you have a guy that [an opposing] team has to know where he is, that opens things up for everyone else. Bo is experienced in the conference and experienced with my system."
Reuben Berry, who was averaging 1.3 points and 4.0 rebounds in 11.3 minutes, left the program after the fall semester.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.