Seton Hill stuns UC, ends Eagles win streak
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The University of Charleston's game on Monday night against Seton Hill couldn't have been much worse, except for the fact the Golden Eagles put themselves in position to win after struggling for 39 minutes to get into a rhythm.
It didn't matter when the Griffins hit their free throws down the stretch and UC still was looking for its rhythm after the buzzer in a 64-58 West Virginia Conference loss at Eddie King Gym.
The defeat took the luster off UC's 101-96 upset of No. 1 West Liberty last week and ended a seven-game winning streak for Coach Mark Downey's team.
The fact that UC (12-3, 8-3 WVC) played the second half without star point guard Terrell Lipkins didn't help.
"I feel like this win might be the turnaround of our season," said Seton Hill guard Nate Perry, who had 16 points and hit 4-of-9 3-pointers as the Griffins won for just the third time in their last seven games.
"They were missing Lipkins in the second half, but I'm not going to take anything away from us. I don't care if he's in or if he's out. We played great. We executed everything."
Lipkins was suffering from back spasms and didn't return after a two-rebound, two-assist first half. Xavier Humphrey also spent some time on the stationary bike trying to loosen a sore knee, but finished with a team-high 12 points and eight rebounds.
Charleston Coach Mark Downey said Lipkins' absence from the floor - except for 9 minutes of the first half - was some of the cause for his team not being in rhythm, but he said the entire week didn't go well after his team handed West Liberty only the second conference regular-season defeat in its last 64 regular season games.
"It was kind of the perfect storm, we had a lot of guys not ready to go," Downey said. "They're (Seton Hill) a good team, but they're under .500 in the league. They can play, they had Shepherd down at half, they had West Lib down at half, but on your home floor, it's a game you should win."
The Golden Eagles had their second-lowest point total of the first half of any game this season, leading just 28-25 after the first 20 minutes. They had only 27 in a 71-61 loss at home to Fairmont State. Also, UC is 1-2 in games when they score fewer than 70 points.
They couldn't exploit the eagerness of Seton Hill's Malachi Leonard, the league's fifth-best shot blocker, who finished with six.
Aleksander Kesic, who had season highs in points (20) and rebounds (9) against West Liberty, had just five points and three boards in 32 minutes. The Golden Eagles had 13 of their 20 turnovers in a sloppy first half and finished with a season-low five steals. Robbie Dreher had 10 points and four rebounds, but was just 2-of-5 from the free throw line.
Max Kenyi led Seton Hill (9-7, 6-6) with 20 points, five rebounds and three steals.
The game didn't start poorly for UC when Quincy Washington took the opening tip and dunked it, and Humphrey hit a 3-pointer to get it to 5-0 just 39 seconds into the game.
There were three lead changes in the contest and one tie, but when Perry hit a 3-pointer with 14:16 left in the game, Seton Hill didn't trail again.
Downey searched helplessly for a combination that would work, and played seven players at least 12 minutes.
The University of Charleston was just 10-of-31 from the floor in the second half and 5-of-16 from 3-point range, three of which came in the final 6:31 to cut two nine-point leads to six and an eight-point lead to five.
"Tempo is big for us," said Seton Hill assistant coach Josh Turnpaugh, filling in for head Coach Tony Morocco, who stayed at home with the flu. "Those guys are so athletic, so well coached and so good in the open court and we wanted to do the best we could to negate that.
"Lipkins playing limited minutes definitely is a bonus. That hurts them because he's a phenomenal player, but our guys were able to persevere."
Downey wouldn't put the loss on his team's win over West Liberty, or that Lipkins was severely limited.
The Golden Eagles get right back at it on Thursday when they host Wheeling Jesuit University - the team that knocked them out of the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Tournament last year.
"I wasn't nice to them, I told them the way it was (last week)," Downey said. "I have to find a way to get it through to them, maybe this was it. If it doesn't after you get your butts kicked like this, it's not going to I guess. I'd do anything to squeak that thing out tonight, but we couldn't get a stop when we needed to and they'd get a shot when they needed to. They did everything they needed to do to win."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.