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."
* * *
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.
* * *
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 richstev...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4837.