W.Va. State closes door on Fleming Hall with win
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."
King hit two more free throws to push the Yellow Jackets' lead to three points with less than four seconds to go, and Javon Moore's final 3-point attempt hit the front of the rim as time ran out. The Cavaliers (10-15, 7-14 MEC) made just one of 17 3-pointers in the game, and couldn't take advantage of a 55-28 rebounding advantage, including a 28-2 advantage on the offensive boards.
The Yellow Jackets put some distance between them and the Cavaliers in the first half thanks to some accurate shooting from all over the floor. WVSU made seven straight shots in span, finishing the half making 17 of 31 (54.8 percent), including five of 10 from 3-point range.
Four of those five 3s came in the final 5:59 of the half, keyed by Bo King when he pulled up at the arc on a fast break and drilled a long shot to give the Yellow Jackets a 29-25 lead. King added another 3-pointer, then watched Terry Wood and Dimitrios Jelen-Joy each add a 3 of his own. West Virginia State pushed the lead to as much as eight points before heading into halftime with a 42-36 advantage.
The Cavaliers stayed in the game thanks to senior forward Deon Boyce, who finished the half with 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting. The rest of UVa-Wise's roster couldn't boast Boyce's shooting touch. Those players combined to make just 10 of 31 from the floor, leaving the Cavaliers unable to take advantage of a commanding lead on the boards. UVa-Wise outrebounded WVSU 29-14 in the first 20 minutes, including a 15-1 advantage on the offensive glass.
Anton Hutchins scored 14 points for WVSU, while Dominic Phillips added 11. George scored 15 points for UVa-Wise, with Moore adding 12 on just 6-of-23 shooting.
King has been around the WVSU program for a long time. He mentioned his mother showing him letters from West Virginia State when she was being recruited there, and said he was proud to have been a part of the history found in Fleming Hall.
"A lot of great guys have come through here," King said. "My mom's a teacher here, so I've met them all, pretty much. I was thinking about those guys before the game and during the game, and I'm thinking about them right now. I'm just glad we were able to hold it down in 'The Pit' for the last game."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.