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WVC basketball: UC, W.Va. State looking for consistency

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Perhaps it's clear the West Virginia Conference men's basketball matchup between West Virginia State and the University of Charleston doesn't lose its luster when neither team is among the favorites to win the regular season, or tournament championships.

Or maybe it does.

Apparently to drum up interest in the matchup, on its website UC has a countdown clock for Saturday's 6 p.m. game at Eddie King Gym.

The two teams square off in front of what is expected to be a huge crowd during a season in which neither team has met expectations. The Yellow Jackets are eighth in the league in which they won two regular season titles and three tournament championships since Coach Bryan Poore's first season (1999-2000). UC is fifth one year after earning an at-large trip to the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Tournament.

The Golden Eagles (9-2, 5-2) have swept the Yellow Jackets (5-7, 3-4) only twice since 1999 (2007-08, 2001-02), but will be the favorites when they lock horns at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Charleston - which is on a five-game winning streak - is trying to find the consistency that resulted in 14 consecutive victories last season.

"Not playing bad," UC Coach Mark Downey said. "We're just trying to get better. We haven't reached our five goals yet, which are to hold teams to 39 percent or lower, be plus-8 on the glass, for the guards to get five rebounds each and we want to have 20 or more assists and 10 or fewer turnovers.

"We need to strive for perfection."

State is trying to put its pieces together to get back to when it was regularly a candidate to win the WVC championship - either in the regular season or the tournament.

The Yellow Jackets have had five seasons under Poore during which they did not lose a conference game at home, and have lost to a league foe on only 27 occasions since 1999.

However, they had six WVC defeats at Fleming Hall last year and are 2-2 at home this season.

Poore wants to see the same fire his team had in a 105-92 victory against Glenville State on Saturday when two of his players had double-doubles and had 23 assists.

"I wish there was a button, and if I could figure that out, I wouldn't be coaching, I would be selling it to everybody else that was coaching and I'd be a multi-millionaire," Poore said. "That's what you get when you're dealing with 20- or 23-year-old kids. You beg them, scream at them, ask them ... I don't know.

"Earl Lloyd has told me and told our team, he said, 'Fellas, when you leave the dormitory over there and you start walking over, it's your responsibility to be ready to go.

"It's not the coach who comes in here and gives you this big 'Win one for the Gipper' speech."

State has received a charge from transfer Raymon Austin. He had 23 points and 12 rebounds against Glenville, while Anton Hutchins had 33 points and 10 boards in that victory.

Austin had 12 points and seven boards against West Virginia Wesleyan in a 70-59 loss, while Hutchins had just 10 points and three boards.

*  *  *

AT WEST LIBERTY, it has become about not just winning, but dominating and blitzing opponents with a relentless press resulting in a handful of 10-0 runs to put foes away.

Defense was in there somewhere, considering the Hilltoppers lead the nation in steals.

Virtually impossible would be the task of finding out if any team has ever won 32 games and advanced to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight and returned its eight top scorers the next season.

However, the Hilltoppers (13-0, 7-0), No. 1 in the National Association of Basketball Coaches Top 25 Poll, have won by just nine (101-92) and five (114-109) points to Pitt Johnstown and at Shepherd, respectively, their last two games. That was the third-highest single-game point total for UPJ and the highest for the Rams.

That marks just the fourth time in Crutchfield's nine years West Liberty has won back-to-back games by fewer than 10 points.

While there obviously is no cause for alarm, since they average a nation-best 115.1 points, one of the times it happened in Crutchfield's tenure was back-to-back NCAA Tournament games in 2010-11.

"I know one thing for sure, you can't win unless you play good defense," Crutchfield said. "If you look at the number of possessions in the (Shepherd) game, it was enormous. We're never going to be the No. 1 defensive team in the country, but our points per possessions on defense is good."

*  *  *

PATRICK BEILEIN, the first-year coach at Wesleyan, admits he wasn't much of a defender during his four years (2002-06) at West Virginia.

In fact, when asked if he "is teaching his team good defense, since he didn't play a lot of defense in college," he replied with, "that's a fair question."

"Defensively, in college, my dad would say like, 'OK Pat, when that shot goes up, if it's not your man, just go find someone to box out, because you're not going to get the rebounds, you're not athletic, so go hit somebody so somebody else can come and get the rebound," he said. "I was like, 'That's fine with me.'"

Wesleyan (6-5, 3-4), however, has not lost its defensive attitude under Beilein.

The Bobcats are fourth in the conference in scoring defense, but still are being outrebounded by an average of more than two per game.

Last year they led the league in scoring defense (65.1), field-goal percentage defense (41.5) and 3-point percentage defense (32.2).

*  *  *

SPEAKING OF Beilein, his father John, who had a 104-60 record at WVU (2002-07), reached the Elite Eight in 2005, and won the National Invitation Tournament in 2007.

In his sixth season at Michigan, the Wolverines are undefeated (15-0) and ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press Top 25.

"What a fabulous job, I'm really happy for him," Patrick Beilein said. "Every D1 job he's had, he left after the five years because he's rebuilt it.

"It's his sixth year at Michigan, now he's finally staying to see almost his finished product. I'm really excited for him. I wish I had a few of his guys here at Wesleyan, the guys who don't play much. I'd start taking him, but I don't think he's going to let me do that."

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at richstevens@dailymail.com or 304-348-4837.

 


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