WHEELING - When you are defending a player with a "hot hand," some way or another you better find a way to get a body on him and prevent him from getting the ball in the air toward the basket.
Monday night Wheeling Jesuit had trouble doing that with University of Charleston senior standout Xavier Humphrey in the second half, and the 6-foot-6 forward made them pay the price.
Humphrey scored 26 of his game-high 34 points during the final 20 minutes and the Golden Eagles held off a spirited Cardinals comeback down the stretch to record a 64-56 victory in a Mountain East Conference opener for both teams at the Alma Grace McDonough Center.
Wheeling Jesuit’s Andre Harris (2) zips a pass past UC’s Xavier Humphrey (23) on Monday night.
Photo by Jim Elliott
Leading 27-15 at the half after closing on a 16-4 spurt, Humphrey got Charleston (3-1) out of the gate quick to open the second with a pair of long 3-pointers. Humphrey actually scored 14 of the Eagles first 17 points to open the half as the visitors took a 44-27 lead at the 10-minute mark.
Facing its biggest deficit of the night at 48-29, Wheeling Jesuit began chipping away, pushing a 9-0 run into a 14-3 spurt to cut the margin to 51-43 at 2:15. Down nine a short time later, Steve Bridgeman drained a 3 and Justin Fritts converted a pair of free throws for a 58-54 score with 46 seconds left.
Coach Danny Sancomb's club had that march halted there, turning the ball over three times down the stretch while failing to convert inside on numerous attempts.
"We just didn't play well at all and we didn't deserve to win this game," Sancomb said. "They missed some free throws late and let us hang around a little, but the bottom line is that they bullied us around all night long.
"They did it off of screens and they spent most of the night dictating to us where we could go.
"And when you have someone shooting like that (Humphrey), you have to know where he is and you have to try and make him do some things that he doesn't want to do. We didn't execute at all and we gave him clean looks that he took advantage of."
Humphrey's night consisted of hitting 9 of 17 shots, including 4 of 8 from beyond the arc, while draining 12 of 14 free throws, all but two of those in the second half.
Sophomore Eric Siefert led the Cardinals comeback effort, scoring all 17 of his points in the second half, while Fritts finished with 13 and Bridgeman 10. Siefert also had a team-high nine rebounds.
Aleksander Kesic backed Humphrey with 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.