BUCKHANNON – It was a tale of two completely different halves for the West Virginia Wesleyan Bobcats in their Mountain East Conference battle with the West Virginia State Yellow Jackets here Monday night.
At the end of the first half, the 'Cats were down by nine at 36-27 after shooting a woeful 23.3 percent while allowing the Yellow Jackets to shoot 63.2 percent.
The 'Cats flipped the script on State in the second half outscoring them by a 38-27 score en route to a 65-63 victory.
Wesleyan shot 64 percent in the second half while holding State to 39 percent.
The win improves the Bobcats of head coach Gary Nottingham to 4-8 overall and 2-3 in the MEC.
"We were really bad in the first half," Nottingham said. "I thought we were cheating the game of basketball. We had to make a decision if we were going to compete or not. But then the second half we started making some shots."
The 'Cats were again led by senior forward Tanner McGrew who tallied his fifth double-double of the year. He scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
"Tanner did a great job," Nottingham stated. "But you have to give some credit to the guys getting him the ball. Tanner made some good moves. He can score and he can make some free throws so it is tough for the other team to foul him."
Senior Taylor Price also contributed big in the win scoring a season-high 18 points while adding four rebounds and two assists.
"Taylor probably played his best game of the year," Nottingham added.
McGrew scored a lay-up early on to give Wesleyan a 2-0 lead but State went on a 7-0 run for a 7-2 lead.
State pushed their lead to 15-6 before Price made a jumper, McGrew knocked down two free throws and Austin Shell tacked on another foul shot to bring Wesleyan to within 15-11 with 10:20 left in the first half.
Wesleyan closed the gap to three at 24-21 with 4:54 showing on the clock, but State outscored them the rest of the first half by a 12-6 margin to take that 36-27 score with them into the locker room.
State made a free throw to up their lead to 10 to start the second half, but Ja'Sahn Johnson put the 'Cats on his shoulders the next three minutes scoring seven straight points.
Price then scored four straight points to bring Wesleyan to within one, at 39-38, with 15:53 left.
Wesleyan would recapture the lead for only the second time when McGrew made a lay-up to treat Wesleyan to a 44-43 lead with 12:45 remaining.
The two teams would trade the lead back-and-fourth before Wesleyan took the advantage for good on a Garrett Grantham jumper that gave the 'Cats a 52-50 lead with 7:03 left in the contest.
While Wesleyan wouldn't relinquish the lead, they were never able to shake the Yellow Jackets.
State's Dominic Phillips turned in a three-point play after being fouled on his lay-up to trim the Wesleyan lead to one at 64-63 with eight seconds left.
McGrew made one of two at the line to push the Wesleyan lead to 65-63.
Phillips' last-second jumper for State at the buzzer clanked off the rim.
Wesleyan will return to action this Thursday when they host Notre Dame. The game will begin at 7:30 p.m.
(Photo courtesy of Peter Galanreau Jr.)