INSTITUTE, W.VA. - The West Virginia State University men's basketball team closed its era on the floor of the original Fleming Hall with a nail-biting, comeback victory - one that could give the Yellow Jackets one more game on their schedule in their new home.
Senior Bo King scored the final seven points for WVSU to give the Yellow Jackets an 84-81 win over the University of Virginia's College at Wise on Tuesday night. That victory breaks the tie West Virginia State held with the Cavaliers and Notre Dame College (which lost Tuesday to Fairmont State) for eighth place in the Mountain East Conference standings - and the final first-round home game in the conference tournament.
Yellow Jackets coach Bryan Poore figures his team will still have to beat the University of Charleston on Saturday to guarantee that eighth seed, but it needed Tuesday night's win to even have the conversation.
"I think that's what they were trying to do, trying to make it exciting," Poore said of his team (12-13, 8-13 MEC). "When we show energy and we're the aggressor, we can make things happen. At the end of the game, our backs were to the wall and, all of a sudden, we start playing with that aggressiveness and fearlessness. And that's when we're good."
Tuesday night marked the Yellow Jackets' final game at the original Fleming Hall,which hosted basketball games beginning in 1942. WVSU hoops games move to the Convocation Center at Fleming Hall - part of the building's $15 million renovation - beginning Saturday.
Late in the game, it looked like it wouldn't be a fond farewell. Leading by as many as 14 in the second half, West Virginia State watched that lead vanish behind the low-post dominance of the Cavaliers' Deon Boyce. The senior forward scored 27 points and pulled down 24 rebounds, and his free throw with 41 seconds left gave UVa-Wise an 81-77 lead.
It became King's game after that. The former Charleston Catholic star scored a layup to cut the lead to 81-79, stole the ball from sophomore guard Charles George and sprinted in for another layup. Jordan Smith fouled King on that shot and King hit the ensuing free throw to give WVSU an 82-81 lead.
"I saw that I could get a jump on the pass and I got there," King said. "It fell out a little bit and I knew I had to get to it before he did, so I got a quick jump on it, got the ball and saw that I had him on my left shoulder.
"I knew what the score was and knew we needed the and-one," he continued. "So I tried to lean into him a little bit, draw some contact and finish."