WVC basketball: Dreher, 19-4 run help UC top State
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia State Coach Bryan Poore saw his team play with an intensity it had been missing for the first 28 games.
In the end, the Yellow Jackets couldn't overcome a University of Charleston team with a quest.
The Golden Eagles fought off a game State team, going on a 19-4 run midway through the second half en route to a hard-fought 97-83 victory over the Yellow Jackets (10-19) in the West Virginia Conference first round Tuesday at Eddie King Gym.
The story was much different than the first two meetings, when UC manhandled its archrival by scores of 92-56 and 92-75. The 17-point win in the second game wasn't as close as it appeared.
The Golden Eagles' fourth consecutive victory over State sends them into Thursday's 6:30 p.m. quarterfinal game at the Charleston Civic Center against fourth-seeded Wheeling Jesuit (18-9), a 77-69 victor over No. 13 Davis & Elkins (8-19).
"They were playing with a lot of energy," Golden Eagles Coach Mark Downey said. "This time of year, you lose, you go home. We knew it was going to be a different game."
It was different in terms of the result, but it was the same in level of play for Charleston, which has won four of its last five games.
As for State, its season ended in the first round of the league tournament for the second consecutive year.
Still, State remains the last team before West Liberty to win the conference's regular-season title (2009) or the tournament crown (2010).
They just couldn't survive a rising UC team, which had lost five of eight games before its recent run of success.
The Golden Eagles (19-8) received another standout showing from Winthrop transfer Robbie Dreher. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound guard was just 5-of-17 from 3-point range entering UC's Feb. 2 game against Bluefield. Since then, Dreher is 7-of-16, including a 3-for-3 effort against State. He has made five of his last six.
"I'm not going to say I can shoot, but I'm able to knock down shots when I'm open," said Dreher, who finished with 17 points. "I just haven't been shooting them because I think it's more of a confidence thing."
His first 3-pointer of the game gave Charleston a 42-34 lead with 40 seconds until halftime.
State's Anton Hutchins, who finished with a team-high 20 points, hit a basket before halftime to cut the lead to six.
State kept the game close into the second half, as a Victor Sharpe 3-pointer made it a 55-50 contest. A 3-pointer by Terrell Lipkins, who finished with 24 points, six assists and five rebounds, extended the lead to eight.
On a rebound at State's end and after a brief scuffle, technicals were whistled on State's David Ford, then on State's Raymon Austin and UC's Quincy Washington. The Golden Eagles extended the lead to 67-53 with 13:04 left when Poore was whistled for a technical.
State managed to keep UC within reach until the Golden Eagles broke free by the midway point of the second half.
"We told our guys to keep it close until the end and if we keep it close to the end, the pressure's on them," said Poore, who has won three tournament titles since 2006.
"Maybe the rim gets a little smaller and things like that. They hit a couple shots and I thought we hit a couple bad ones.
"We didn't finish some, we didn't hit some free throws, we didn't get some loose balls. It stretched out from five to 15 or 16, then we had to go speed up."
Evan Faulkner finished with 20 points to increase his average in the last five games to 17.4 points. Washington came off the bench for 11 points.
David Ford had 18 points and nine rebounds for State, while Jalen Walker added 15 points. The game also marked the end of the careers of Ford, Brandon Ross and Howard Douglas III.
The season continues for UC, which faces Wheeling Jesuit on Thursday.
"They've (Wheeling Jesuit) had our number, but we have to win at some point," Downey said.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at email@example.com or 304-348-4837.