INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- The West Virginia State University men's basketball team rose to the occasion and toppled crosstown rivals Charleston, 74-72, at the Walker Convocation Center on Sunday afternoon. The atmosphere inside the Walker Center was electric as both sets of fans showed up in numbers to support their respective schools. The Yellow Jackets prevailed in a hard-fought battle that came down to the wire.
"I'm really proud of our guys," said Head Coach Bryan Poore in his postgame comments. "I thought they played extremely hard and stayed together through some rough spots. The UC game is always an intense, emotional game and the growth in our team allowed us to stay focused and pull out a huge win."
West Virginia State improves to 13-4 overall and 8-4 in the Mountain East Conference (MEC) with the victory. On the other hand, Charleston falls to 15-3 on the season and 9-3 in the MEC with the defeat.
Junior forward Jeremiah Moore played with the composure of a seasoned veteran as he recorded a career-high 28 points to go along with eight rebounds. Twenty-two of West Virginia State's 37 points in the first half were scored by Moore. Fellow junior Glen Abram drained four shots from behind the arc on his way to 19 points while coming up with a pair of steals. He scored 16 of his points in the second half. Teammate Anthony Pittman tallied 11 points, eight boards, three assists, two blocks, and two steals to round out the top players for WVSU.
The first half was neck-and-neck between the two teams. The Golden Eagles clung to the lead in the opening eight minutes of the contest, but the Yellow Jackets managed to stay within a couple of buckets of their rivals to keep the momentum from swinging too heavily. Glen Abram and Jeremiah Moore connected on back-to-back three-pointers that gave West Virginia State its first lead of the game, 20-16, with 11 minutes left in the first half.
The next nine minutes were nearly an even split between WVSU and UC. Moore accounted for 15-of-17 points scored by the Yellow Jackets during that stretch. He continually tipped-in missed shots and knocked down three-pointers to keep West Virginia State within striking distance of Charleston. WVSU trailed by four points going into halftime, 41-37.
After Moore carried the load in the opening period of play, the rest of the squad chipped in during the second half to give West Virginia State a sizeable advantage. The Yellow Jackets grabbed a 12-point lead, 57-45, around the 12-minute mark after Frank Agyemang drew a foul on an aggressive drive to the basket and converted both of his free-throws.
The Golden Eagles then went on a 22-10 run in the following 10 minutes to level the score at 67-apiece with less than three minutes remaining in the game. Four turnovers resulted in a two-minute scoring drought that came to an end when Charleston's Lamont McManus was able to complete a three-point play with a layup and made free-throw attempt. UC took a 70-67 lead with just over a minute to go.
Coach Poore then used a full timeout to draw up a play that swung Glen Abram around to the top of the key for an open three-point shot that swished through the net. Overtime loomed with the score now deadlocked at 70-all.
UC was then able to draw a foul and convert both foul shots to go up 72-70. WVSU responded by drawing a foul on the next possession. Abram made his first free-throw attempt, but missed his second. He quickly made up for his error by stealing the ball back and breaking fast for an easy layup. With around 20 seconds showing on the scoreboard, West Virginia State was ahead by one-point, 73-72.
After calling a timeout, Charleston needed to make a shot to regain the lead and possibly win the game. Senior guard Michal Seals made sure that didn't happen by coming up with a steal on the critical possession. Agyemang ended up at the foul line for the Yellow Jackets and made one of his two free-throws. The Golden Eagles got the rebound off the missed foul shot, but it proved to be futile as they were unable to get off another shot.