What seemed impossible one week ago after a crushing loss at East Stroudsburg seems more realistic for the West Chester University men’s basketball team, following a dominating 76-48 win over Millersville at Hollinger Field House Saturday.
The Golden Rams (14-10, 5-7 PSAC East) are now tied with the Marauders (10-13, 5-7 PSAC East) for sixth place in the division – one game behind Bloomsburg, Cheyney, and East Stroudsburg for third place in the PSAC East. After two close losses at Kutztown and East Stroudsburg two weeks ago, the Rams jumped back into the playoff hunt with their win over Shippensburg on Wednesday and Saturday’s win over the Marauders.
“In the last couple of games, they’ve come to play,” West Chester head coach Damien Blair said of his team. “That’s how you win games in this league.
The Marauders found out the hard way that shooting 24 percent from the field (12-for-50) isn’t going to get it done; especially when the Rams shot 28-for-63 (28-for-63) from the field.
“We take pride in our defensive play,” Blair said. “Some of the other teams are getting worn down.
“Things are falling into place for us,” he added.
From the moment Khalif Foster scored four of the Rams’ six points – the first six points of the game – 90 seconds into the contest, the Rams set the tone for the entire game, in which West Chester never trailed.
“The coaches have been teaching us to trust each other,” said Foster after the game. “We played well in [the last] two games and we feel confident in each other.”
The Rams jumped out to an 18-7 lead midway through the first half. The Marauders did cut the lead to 20-16 with 5:35 left in the first half after a pair of Mike Holley foul shots. Carl Johnson, however, hit a three pointer that all but deflated a Millersville team that, like West Chester, was fighting for their playoff lives.
The Rams led 29-23 at halftime; they then went on a 12-1 to start the second half, making the lead 41-24 with 16:49 left in regulation. The lead never dropped below 12 points the remainder of the game.
Lance McDowell led all scorers with 15 points, while Johnson added 13, and Foster 12 for West Chester. Harley Williamson added a double-double – 10 points and 10 rebounds – off the bench for the Rams.
Jaymes Miller had 12 points to lead Millersville, while Holley added 10. Mike Seibert, who burned the Rams with 24 points – including a 6-for-9 performance from beyond the three point line in the Marauders’ 82-70 win at Pucillo Gymnasium on January 22 – was held to 4 points, and going 1-for-5 from three point range.
The Rams are in control of their own destiny as their final two opponents of the regular season are involved in the three-way tie: Cheyney (Wednesday night at Cope Hall), and Bloomsburg (Saturday afternoon at Hollinger). The Rams need to beat both the Wolves and Huskies to finish at 7-7 and get a lot of help from other teams to make the playoffs, while a loss all but ends the Rams’ drive for a post-season bid.
“When you go to Cheyney and play in that environment, you need to play outside of yourself,” Blair said of Cope Hall, regarded by many in the PSAC as one of the toughest places to play in the league.
Foster, however, is ready for the challenge.
“I actually like playing in an environment like Cheyney,” he said. “I’m going to be up for that, bring my ‘A’ game. There’s no margin for error.”
NOTES: The loss marked the third consecutive time the Marauders have lost at Hollinger. Millersville leads the all-time series with West Chester 93-90. … If West Chester wins both games and ends up in a tie with Bloomsburg, Cheyney, or Millersville for the third or fourth seed, the Golden Rams would win any tie-breaker if Mansfield beats Kutztown at Decker Gymnasium Wednesday night. If the Rams beat both the Wolves and Huskies, it would result in a season split against those two schools, as is the case with Millersville. The Rams win on the second criteria – head-to-head against teams ahead of the tied teams; West Chester swept the season series with the Mountaineers. If Kutztown wins the East, however, the Rams would lose any tie-breaker because of the Golden Bears’ sweep of the Rams. … If East Stroudsburg ends up in a multi-way tie for the post-season, West Chester also loses that tie-breaker, as the Warriors swept the season series with the Rams.
Creighton Rabs covers West Chester University athletics for glowbass.com. He is neither affiliated with nor employed by West Chester University. Feedback can be emailed to [email protected]; live updates of select WCU events will be available on Twitter at @WCUExaminer.