By SHAWN RINE
WEST LIBERTY - With four starters out nursing serious injuries, second-year Fairmont coach Jerrod Calhoun had a plan in place to shut down high-scoring and No. 1-ranked West Liberty on Saturday at a standing-room-only ASRC. The Falcons' deliberate offensive attack held the Hilltoppers to their lowest output since last season's Final Four loss to Metro State, but in the end it was not nearly enough.
WLU’s Keen Cockburn (33) drives to the basekt against the defense of FSU’s Evan Andrews (24).
Kelvin Goodwin and Devin Hoehn scored 13 and 12 points, respectively, off the bench, as West Liberty (14-0 overall, 10-0 Mountain East) shot 50 percent from the floor on its way to a 77-60 victory against Fairmont (10-5, 5-4), it's 60th consecutive home conference game without a loss.
''It's good for our guys to play against different game plans,'' said West Liberty coach Jim Crutchfield, who was victorious for the 255th time in 300 tries at the school, including a 22-1 record against the Falcons. ''We've seen teams play us differently, but not a lot this year.
''They're a pretty good team and they had a good game plan.''
It was born out of necessity.
Senior Brendan Cooper is out with a broken hand, ''my starting point guard, Caleb Davis, has an infection near his heart, and then the guy who has been really playing well, Shammgod (Wells), has a concussion,'' Calhoun said. ''We're not talking about sprained ankles or being dinged up, you're talking about major, major issues in these young kids' lives.
''I feel like I've been at doctors and hospitals all year.''
Saturday's second half didn't do a whole lot to quell Fairmont State's pain.
The Toppers, whose last home conference loss came against these same Falcons six years ago, built a 53-39 edge after back-to-back 3-pointers by Goodwin and Hoehn and a C.J. Hester putback and never looked back.
West Liberty entered leading the nation at a little more than 114 points a game, but got it done this time with defense. Fairmont turned the ball over 17 times and was held to 45-percent shooting, including 37 percent in the second half. That is an important number because Calhoun-coached teams are 20-0 when hitting half their shots.
''What we're looking at is we just held a pretty good team to 60 points,'' Crutchfield said. ''The key was early in the second half when the lead went from five to 10. Now we're saying 'do you want to run a minutes and a half off every time you get the ball?'
''Even though we scored 77 points, I think if you went to the stat line and looked at our points per-possession, it would be pretty high, which is obviously what we talk about.''
Shawn Dyer and Cedric Harris added 12 points each for West Liberty, which is at Wheeling Jesuit on Thursday. Keene Cockburn scored nine and Hester had eight points and seven rebounds.
''He's a warrior,'' Crutchfield said of Hester, who was up against a much taller Fairmont front line. ''He doesn't give an inch and fights for the ball.
''Guys with hearts like that, that's what wins basketball games. He is a proven winner.''
Thomas Winbush paced the Falcons with 14 points. Stevie Browning and Chase Morgan netted 12 apiece while Trevor Andrews-Evans had 10.
''We really miss Brendan Cooper. Any time you have a senior go out like that it really messes up your offense and your tempo. We struggle to pass the ball, but we held them to 77 points,'' Calhoun said. ''We controlled the tempo in the first half but I thought their guys got going a little bit in the second half.
''We're currently 0-5 against them but Jim's got a good team.
''We'll see them again in February.''