By Steve Keenan
Both head coaches realized WVU Tech wasn’t at full strength entering Saturday’s men’s basketball matchup with visiting Concord University.
Second-year Concord coach Kent McBride used that knowledge to construct a successful game plan, while veteran Tech coach Bob Williams kept his team in striking distance but was ultimately frustrated again. The Mountain Lions got stronger as the game progressed, ending the afternoon at the Baisi Center owners of a 92-81 non-conference victory.
It marked the second win for Concord over Tech this season, following a 93-78 verdict on Dec. 3 in Athens.
“We knew Tech had eight or nine guys dressed, and losing (Brandon) Burgraff (midway through the opening half) hurt,” said McBride. “We wanted to wear them down.
“It took its toll in the last (several) minutes. Any win’s a good win, especially when it comes on the road and (given the fact) we have so much youth.”
“We’re facing adversity,” said Williams. “It’s been a tough three-week stretch.
“We started the game with five scholarship players and three walk-ons suited up. And Brandon goes down with a knee injury in the first half. He’s a double-figure scorer and excellent defender. That’s been the story of our season.”
Besides those who dressed for the contest, Williams has a pair of players sidelined with injuries, two others seeking to gain their eligibility, one who will red-shirt and one who quit the squad. He says he’s “recruiting right now,” seeking a couple more players to bolster the roster as the second semester approaches.
Williams said McBride and his staff were smart enough to realize the best way to attack Tech.
“Unfortunately, we lost so many players (from last year’s solid team),” he said. “We’ve been playing with four guards all semester.
“They (Concord) did a good job. They are one of the few teams that has pounded it inside on us.”
The Golden Bears went ahead 68-66 when standout guard David Rawlinson canned two free throws after being fouled on a drive with 10:29 left, then the Mountain Lions began to assert themselves in the paint offensively while continuing to limit Tech defensively - often to one shot - on the other end. With the score at 70-69 in Tech’s favor, Concord got inside buckets from Nick Ruffin and Jordan Davis to begin to inch ahead. Rawlinson netted a freebie, then Davis responded with a deuce along the baseline and a pair of free throws, the latter which made it 77-71 with 6:31 to play.
Concord later pushed the margin to 81-74 on four straight points from senior Damien Tunstalle, a Woodrow Wilson product. The closest Tech would get from that stage was five points, 81-76, with 3:36 to go.
“Jordan Davis stepped up big in the paint, and Alex McGlothin (who had missed four or five games) had some big minutes,” said McBride.
Tunstalle finished with 21 points to lead four Mountain Lions in double figures. Thomas Brown added 17, Davis 13 and Mike Boyd 11.
Rawlinson paced Tech with a 33-point, six-assist performance, but he was contained somewhat in the game’s closing minutes by Concord.
“Rawlinson is as good a guard as we’ll see all year,” McBride said. “In the last 8-9 minutes, we made some adjustments and clamped down on the driving angles.”
Jaren Marino added 12 points and Floyd Campbell and Joe Saunders had 10 each for Tech.
The winners owned a commanding 51-26 edge on the glass and shot 50.8 percent (31-of-61) from the field.
The first half was a see-saw affair. Tech led 10-7, then the game was knotted at 15-15 before the Mountain Lions went on an 8-0 spurt to go up 23-15 with 11:25 remaining. The Bears battled back to a 26-25 lead on a Rawlinson drive with 8:21 to play, and the contest was tied at 39-39 when Rawlinson beat the Concord press and fed Saunders for a deuce at the 4:11 mark.
Concord answered again, though, as Tunstalle scored a two-pointer off a nice assist from Ruffin and followed that with a 3-pointer from the right wing after taking a feed from Paul Byrd. The margin had stretched to eight, 51-43, at the intermission.
Concord, which used the win to bounce back from an 86-72 loss to West Virginia Wesleyan the previous Saturday, won’t play again until Jan. 3. At 7:30 p.m. that night, it hosts West Virginia Conference foe the University of Charleston at the Carter Center.
“We’re a work in progress,” said McBride. “Our goal is to be better in March.
“I’ll take 6-2 and enjoy the holidays.”
Tech (9-8) went on to snap a four-game losing skid with a 70-65 victory over Shawnee (Ohio) State University on Monday. Kornilous Donnell led the way with 26 points and 10 rebounds.
Meanwhile, the Tech women dropped a 57-48 decision to Winston-Salem State over the weekend. They were led by Courtney Sturdivant’s 15 points.
Prior to Saturday’s game, those in attendance observed a moment of silence for those affected by the Connecticut elementary school tragedy.
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Concord University 92,
Jordan Davis 5-7 3-6 13, Damien Tunstalle 7-18 5-5 21, Gentry Shrewsbury 4-4 1-1 9, Thomas Brown 5-10 4-4 17, Mike Boyd 2-2 6-6 11, Alex McGlothin 3-3 3-5 9, Nick Moyer 1-2 1-2 3, Cam Shannon 0-2 0-0 0, Eric Bailey 1-5 0-0 2, Paul Byrd 1-4 0-0 3, Nick Ruffin 2-4 0-0 4. Totals: 31-61 23-29 92.
WVU Tech (8-8)
Floyd Campbell 5-10 0-2 10, Jaren Marino 4-6 2-2 12, Terrale Clark 3-10 3-4 9, Brandon Burgraff 1-3 0-0 2, Kornilous Donnell 2-6 0-1 5, Hunter Lambert 0-0 0-0 0, Joe Saunders 5-10 0-0 10, David Rawlinson 11-25 11-13 33. Totals: 31-70 16-22 81.
C 51 41 — 92
T 43 38 — 81
3-point goals — C: 7-22 (Tunstalle 2-8, Brown 3-5, Boyd 1-1, Moyer 0-1, Bailey 0-3, Byrd 1-4). T: 3-16 (Marino 2-4, Clark 0-2, Burgraff 0-1, Donnell 1-3, Saunders 0-1, Rawlinson 0-5). Fouled out — C: none. T: Campbell.