WVC basketball: Greenleaf, upstart Yellow Jackets hit road on a roll
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia State University women's basketball team will be favored to win its school record-tying seventh consecutive game tonight when it faces West Virginia Conference foe Alderson-Broaddus at Rex Pyles Arena.
Tonight's contest is the first of four consecutive road games for the upstart Yellow Jackets (10-11, 9-8), who have moved into seventh-place in the conference with five games remaining.
The last time West Virginia State won seven consecutive games was under Coach Gil Heasley during the 2003-04 season.
Two signature victories are highlighted in the six-game winning streak - 73-70 against second-place West Liberty on Jan. 31, and 72-62 against third-place Fairmont State on Saturday night.
They had lost 11 of 12 games before a Jan. 24 win over Ohio Valley.
Since then, Kashauna Cook has averaged a double-double (10 points, 10.2 rebounds) and junior forward Asia Greenleaf has averaged 10.7 points and 8.2 rebounds.
"When I came in, everything was new," said first-year Coach David Smith, who is 585-282 in his career. "Right before practice started, I couldn't lay down any of the basics. That slowed us up, as well as not having 10 players to practice.
"We're getting a lot better effort during this winning streak. We're giving up like 58 points per game and that's been a big difference for us."
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TO THREE, or not to three, is not the question for the University of Charleston women's basketball team, it is the solution.
There are no secrets to the 10th-place Golden Eagles (12-9, 9-8). When they hit their 3-pointers, they win. When they don't, well, they lose - most of the time.
Coach Adam Collins' team is 10-1 when it hits 10 or more 3-pointers, losing only to Glenville State, the 17th-ranked team in the USA Today coaches' poll. It is 2-8 when it doesn't, with wins against Fairmont State Dec. 15 and Alderson-Broaddus Jan. 28.
"We're needing either consistent inside play or a consistent slashing-type play in situations," said UC's first-year coach. "We played well (Saturday). We did the things we were supposed to do. We just didn't shoot the ball well."
In Saturday's game - an 83-69 loss to Pitt Johnstown - the Golden Eagles were 2-of-19 from 3-point range (.105), by far their worst performance this season.
Still, UC managed to close within six at the 3-minute mark but "there was a lid on the basket," Collins said.
Post players Tianni Kelly and Kali Cuttaia were a combined 4-of-18 overall and two of Cuttaia's baskets were 3-pointers. Inside the arc, Kelly and Cuttaia were just 2-of-15 (.133).
"We had some nights where Kali has shot a high percentage," Collins said. "They were giving us the inside. The two girls inside played their tails off."
The Golden Eagles have five games remaining - at second-place West Liberty today, vs. ninth-place Bluefield Thursday and vs. first-place Glenville on Feb. 18 before visits to Wheeling Jesuit (Feb. 21) and W.Va. State (Feb. 23) to close the regular season.
"Our defense has gotten a lot better, although the stats don't necessarily show it," Collins said. "You go into the season being able to practice for three hours, then it's cut down to two and now it's down to one and-a-half. You have to have something to hang your hat on and we're going to hang our hat on the press and running."
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THE FAIRMONT STATE men's basketball team isn't thinking about finishing with the second seed in the WVC Tournament later this month.
The Falcons (16-5, 14-3) are in second place, one game ahead of Alderson-Broaddus in the league standings, but two games behind two-time regular season and tournament champion West Liberty.
"Honestly, we're not playing for second," said Fairmont State Coach Jerrod Calhoun, a former WVU assistant in his first season as a head coach. "West Lib still has five games, we still have them at home. They have some very difficult games.
"The thing I learned about this conference, just about any league's one through five could beat a lot of Division I teams. It's a very balanced league."
Fairmont has won 11 of its last 13 games, with losses to just West Liberty and giant killer Wheeling Jesuit this calendar year.
The Hilltoppers (22-1, 16-1), third in the National Association of Basketball Coaches NCAA Division II rankings, host Charleston tonight. The Golden Eagles are the only team to defeat West Liberty this season.
West Liberty then visits Fairmont, hosts Shepherd and visits Pitt Johnstown before rounding out the regular season at home against Wheeling Jesuit - the only team to hand it a regular season loss last season.
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WHEELING JESUIT was one of four WVC teams to earn a spot in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Tournament last season, eliminating Charleston in the first round.
After a rocky start, the Cardinals (13-8, 9-7) appear to be peaking at the right time, winning four straight and seven of their last eight games.
They have victories at W.Va. Wesleyan, Charleston and Fairmont State during that stretch and three of their final five games are at home, with road contests against last-place Ohio Valley and archrival Wheeling Jesuit.
The Cardinals are 8-3 at home this season and 4-1 in their last five games at the McDonough Center. Last season Wheeling Jesuit won its last five regular-season games, including a 10-point win over West Liberty.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.