The WCU Men’s basketball team was officially eliminated from post-season contention on Saturday Feb. 23 after a 60-57 loss to Mansfield at Hollinger Field House. The Rams went into the game needing a win to keep their slight playoff hopes alive. However, when sophomore guard Kenneth St. George went down eight minutes into the game and failed to return, that was probably a sign that this was not meant to be.
Sophomore forward Kehinde Roberts led the way for the Golden Rams with another stat-stuffing game. Roberts had 14 points, eight assists, seven steals and four rebounds in 36 minutes of action for the Rams Sam Scott also had a fine day, scoring 11 points and adding eight rebounds.
Despite these lofty contributions, the Rams lost the battle up front as Mansfield forwards Yuseff Carr and Brandon Lawley combined for 28 points and 21 rebounds to go along with five blocked shots. The Rams’ lack of experience in the frontcourt showed as Carr and Lawley were able to set the pace. Redshirt freshman Gerald Caldwell turned in a modest six-point, four-rebound effort and true freshman Kevin Gallagher chipped in two points and five rebounds, but it was almost nothing compared to the Mansfield frontcourt.
The Rams got killed on the glass as Mansfield out-rebounded them 40 to 30. Mansfield gave West Chester very few second chances as they ripped down 30 defensive rebounds.
The Rams played hard, however, and a Roberts three-pointer with three seconds left in the first half sent them into the locker room tied at halftime. Though they didn’t shoot particularily well in the first half, making only nine of 26 shots, the Rams helped themselves out by going to the free throw line 11 times in the first half, compared to Mansfield’s two free throws. However, they shot themselves in the foot by only making five of those 11, missing a chance at six points they so desperately needed.
In the second half, the Rams fought tooth and nail every possession, especially down the stretch. However, the lack of experience on the floor with St. George, senior Lenwood Greenwood and junior Ralph Hegamin all out showed at a crucial time.
Scott’s missed throw with just 12 seconds left would have tied the game at 58, but he missed and Carr hit both of his ensuing free throws to give Mansfield a 60-57 lead. The Golden Rams then saw their chance to push the ball down the floor for a potential game-tying three-pointer go up in flames as Mansfield’s John Hampton made the game-sealing steal to ensure the Mansfield win.
Freshman Aaron Smith was outstanding in defeat, as he hit four of five three pointers. Fellow freshman Nate House came off the bench to add seven points and two steals on 2-4 shooting.
This was a time where the Rams’ inexperience showed. If this was a team made up of juniors and seniors, games like these would likely be won down the stretch. But this is such a young team, and they must learn to win. They have surpassed expectations this year, and the PSAC must now start looking over their shoulder for this young, talented team. This was the year to pick on WCU, as teams won’t be able to do so much longer.
The Rams will finish their season this week with a game at Bloomsburg on Wednesday and a home game on Saturday against Millersville. Greenwood will be honored on Saturday as the lone senior on Senior Day. The Quad will also be handing out their annual awards in next week’s edition.
Matt Chandik is a third-year student majoring in Spanish with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at MC618553@wcupa.edu.