Charleston gets past Va.-Wise
CHARLESTON, W.VA. -- When schools in the Mountain East Conference see the University of Charleston on their schedule they better be ready, because the Golden Eagles are proving they will be each time out.
Senior forward Xavier Humphrey scored 20 points to pace five players in double figures as UC dispatched Virginia-Wise 79-67 Saturday afternoon. A crowd of about 300 attended the matchup at Eddie King Gym on UC's South Ruffner campus.
"It was a dogfight,'' said Humphrey, 6-foot-6 transfer from Marshall. "I think everybody came to play. I'm very proud of my team.
"We're here to compete. I don't want to hear people say a new coach and a new system. We bought in and we're ready to go. We're ready to dogfight if anybody wants to play with us. We're going to compete with the top teams, the West Libs and Shepherds, and I think today proved it.''
Humphrey sank 7 of 15 shots, including 4 of 9 from 3-point range with several coming way beyond the arc, for the Golden Eagles (10-4 overall, 7-3 MEC).
Sophomore guard Tino diTrapano, a former player at George Washington High School, added 15 points and four assists for UC while sophomore forward Aleksander Kesic chipped in 14 points and four rebounds, senior guard Denzel Douglas turned in 11 points, 11 boards and seven assists and senior forward Fred Simpson donated 11 points, four caroms and two blocks.
The Golden Eagles only committed one turnover, and that was in the opening half. They also turned a minus-10 rebounding margin into only minus 5 by game's end.
"I tell you what, I like when we weren't playing well offensively we continued to fight, defend and guard,'' said UC first-year coach Dwaine Osborne. "I just like our fight and willingness to defend.
"I thought in a 10-minute period, the 15-minute mark to the 5-minute mark in the second half, I mean we were tough. We guarded well and rebounded well. That was huge for us.''
Virginia-Wise went ahead 45-41 early in the second half, then UC found some energy as Humphrey turned in a resounding slam dunk on a fast break as the Golden Eagles took the lead for good at 47-45 with 12:59 left in the game.
UC answered the bell again after junior guard Tyler Maggard knocked down a 3 to pull Virginia-Wise within three points (52-49) with 10:19 to go. The Golden Eagles used an 11-0 run to pull away for the victory, punctuated by back-to-back 3s from Kesic and Humphrey.
Virginia-Wise made another push on junior guard Javon Moore's 3 to close to 63-54 with 4:26 to go, but UC's Simpson nailed a 3 and the Golden Eagles knocked down 13 of 15 free-throw attempts over the final 2:51 to lock it up.
"The first half looked sluggish, but when we got to the second half we locked down and played half-court defense,'' said Humphrey. "Our team getting this victory is more important than me having a big game. As a senior I just want to carry my team, if that means defense, scoring, rebounding, anything to do to get our win.''
Moore finished with 25 points and seven rebounds for Virginia-Wise (7-7, 4-6) while Deon Boyce turned in 16 points and 13 boards and Matt Day dropped in 13 points and nine caroms.
"We're trying to get a little bit better every day,'' said Osborne, whose team sits in third in the MEC and just one game behind second-place Shepherd. "I think it's a theme for us this year, we're pursuing excellence.
"It's something you're never going to get to, but we're trying to get a little bit closer, a little bit closer. Play better the next time out than we did last time. I'm sure proud of the work.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.