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WVC basketball: UC lacks rhythm, drops decision to Wheeling Jesuit

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- University of Charleston men's basketball Coach Mark Downey wouldn't care if he ever saw a zone defense again.

For the second consecutive game, the Golden Eagles failed to maintain a rhythm and had a chance to win, but dropped a 68-67 decision to Wheeling Jesuit University in a West Virginia Conference battle at Eddie King Gym.

This is getting to be like a broken record for Downey, but his team hasn't won since a 101-96 victory over West Liberty on Jan. 14.

Although that's only 10 days ago, it must seem like an eternity for the Golden Eagles (12-4, 8-4 WVC).

"Shooters aren't making shots, that's toughness," Downey said. "Their freshman (Justin Fritts) is 4-for-8 (from 3-point range), and our junior (Xavier Humphrey) and senior (Evan Faulkner) are 1-for-13.

"We work on zone ... there are some practices that's all we do, because we know that's what we're going to get. Maybe I'm not a good zone coach, I don't know."

The Cardinals (8-8, 6-6) improved their record against Downey to 4-0, which includes a 79-76 victory in last year's NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Tournament.

In that game, Wheeling Jesuit mostly used a 2-3 zone in the second half, which subdued UC's attack. This time, the Cardinals didn't stray from the defense that, Coach Danny Sancomb said, he uses "against the right teams.

"They've very athletic and very well-coached and we knew we would have to play good. We wanted to keep them out of transition as well."

This time, the Cardinals didn't trail after a Fritts 3-pointer gave them a 37-34 lead with 18:57 left in the game, although it was twice tied in the second half.

Wheeling Jesuit maintained a one-point lead and the ball after a missed 3-pointer that would've pushed the advantage to four, and a missed two-pointer with 49 seconds left. After the second Cardinal timeout during the possession, senior Ben Siefert missed a jumper. The Golden Eagles sprinted down the floor and got the ball into the hands of shooting guard Evan Faulkner. The 6-foot-1 senior pump-faked, went left and cut a 3-point attempt loose that was off the mark as the buzzer sounded.

"We were praying that he misses," Sancomb said. "I think they did a good job of not calling a timeout to let the defense set up and they got a good look.

"He's not a good shooter, he's a great shooter. Fortunately for us, his shot didn't go in tonight."

Faulkner was 1-of-7 from 3-point range, making him 2-for-10 in UC's last two games - in a 64-58 loss to Seton Hill and Wheeling Jesuit. Humphrey, meanwhile, is 2-for-14 in the last two games from the arc.

The Golden Eagles played Thursday without shooting guard Hayden Annett, their most accurate 3-point shooter with at least 10 attempts. He suffered a mild concussion in the loss to Seton Hill and sat out Thursday.

Point guard Terrell Lipkins, the junior who played only 9 minutes against Seton Hill because of back spasms, "wasn't himself," but Downey wouldn't make excuses.

"He's still not right, but I'm glad he played," Downey said. "I didn't know if he was going to play. I'm glad he played, because every other guy on my team isn't very tough. Quincy Washington tried to be a little tough, but we just got out-toughed, all night, for the second time in three days.

"It's unbelievable. That team's supposed to shoot 3s, spread the floor and try to be cute, but they got 18 offensive rebounds."

Lipkins shot well, hitting 11-of-17 shots and finishing with a career-high 30 points to go with six rebounds and six assists.

Lipkins was 8-for-13 from 3-point range, finishing one shy of tying the school record for 3s in a game. The record is held by Ajamu Gaines (2000), Robert Siwo

(2006) and Kevin Buchanan.

"The fact of the matter is, the games we have lost this year, with the exception of Shepherd, the opposing teams listen to their coach and have their coach's back," Downey said. "We didn't in those games. I didn't have my guys on board tonight, they did. Seton Hill, the other night, their coach (John Morocco) was sick, they were playing for their coach.

"I don't know, we're not very tough. We're just not taking on my personality."

Washington finished with 16 points and six rebounds. However, everybody but Lipkins and Washington combined for just 21 points and 20 rebounds.

Joe Prati had 22 points to lead the Cardinals, who also won on the offensive boards 18-13 and actually won the battle of fast-break points 10-2.

Things don't get any easier for the Golden Eagles, who visit Alderson-Broaddus for a 7:30 p.m. game on Monday and Fairmont State for a 7:30 p.m. game next Thursday.

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


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