CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Eladio Espinosa sat on a folding chair inside of Eddie King Gym after the University of Charleston's first-round West Virginia Conference Tournament win over Bluefield State.
Espinosa, a 6-foot-7 junior, paced the Golden Eagles men's basketball team in points (19) and rebounds (16) in the Tuesday night win, which advanced second-seeded - and No. 22-ranked - Charleston (24-5) to today's 3 p.m. quarterfinal matchup with seventh-seed Pitt-Johnstown (15-13).
Today's UC-UPJ matchup will follow a 1 p.m. quarterfinal kickoff of Concord (16-11) vs. Wheeling Jesuit (21-8).
The nightcap doubleheader features West Virginia Wesleyan (20-7) vs. Alderson-Broaddus (18-9) at 6:30, with the nation's No. 4 team, West Liberty (26-2), facing Shepherd (14-13) at 8:30 to conclude the quartet of games.
In addition to Espinosa, the Golden Eagles reached today's quarterfinals because they received a lift from 6-6 junior Xavier Humphrey, who played a season-high 30 minutes off the bench and scored 14 points against the Big Blues.
Another junior, Noah Fischer, popped a couple 3-pointers in the most action he has seen since returning after missing nine games because he had his appendix removed.
The common thread between the trio of players?
"Marshall guys," Espinosa said.
Espinosa, Humphrey and Fischer are all first-year players at Charleston, and all joined the program as transfers from Marshall.
The Golden Eagles have five seniors - Brandon Ross, Marcus Knott, Philip Outley, Marco Richardson and WVC Player of the Year P.J. Reyes - but Downey has an affinity for his group of junior transfers, which also includes guard Evan Faulkner (Radford).
In Tuesday's first-round matchup, as the seniors struggled, Espinosa, Humphrey and Fischer combined for 41 of the team's 100 points and half of UC's rebounds (25 of 50). The trio made 17-of-29 field goals while the rest of the team combined to go 20-for-59 from the field.
"The Marshall guys have been huge," said Downey, a second-year coach who has Charleston on its longest winning streak (12 games) since the 2001-02 season.
"They've given us that punch and I hope they keep giving it."
Espinosa has started 20 of 29 games after taking a circuitous route to Division II basketball. Downey is the eighth coach in eight years for the post player.
Espinosa went to four different high schools and was recruited by Coach Stan Heath to the University of South Florida. After one season, Espinosa transferred to Marshall, where he sat out the 2009-10 season per NCAA rules.
Before Espinosa became eligible, Herd Coach Donnie Jones jettisoned the program for UCF and Espinosa played 10 games for Tom Herrion last season before sustaining a gruesome throat injury that ended his season and, ultimately, his Division I hoops career.
During a practice on the eve of Marshall's game at UCF last season, Espinosa had his throat crushed when a player was pushed into him.