By Tom Bone
For The Register-Herald
New Year’s Day was not a day off for the Concord University basketball teams and their coaches.
While many West Virginians were resting and watching some football, the Mountain Lions and Lady Lions were running the floor in the Carter Center, preparing for the renewal of their season in Athens on Thursday against the University of Charleston.
The Mountain Lions began their Christmas break with a 6-2 record (2-2 in the West Virginia Conference), the best overall start for a Concord squad since 2003. The Mountain Lions have won three of their last four games, and are unbeaten at home so far.
Concord’s last game, on Dec. 15, was a 92-81 win at WVU-Tech in Montgomery. Nick Ruffin had 10 rebounds and five assists. Damien Tunstalle took 18 shots and scored 21 points, improving to fourth in the WVIAC in scoring with an average of 19.5 points per game. Thomas Brown added 17 points, seven rebounds and three steals.
Currently, guard Mike Boyd is third-best in the conference in assist-turnover ratio, making 2.6 assists for every ball given up. Jordan Davis has made 64.2 percent of his field goal tries, fourth best in the WVIAC, and chips in 6.4 rebounds per game on average.
Tunstalle is Concord’s top rebounder, with 46. Gentry Shrewsbury has blocked four shots, dished 11 assists and hauled down 27 rebounds.
Coach Kevin McBride is enjoying depth on his roster, illustrated by the fact that seven Concordians are averaging 20 or more minutes per game.
The Mountain Lions are scoring 79.8 points per game and are allowing 76 on average, and Concord is grabbing eight more rebounds per contest than the opposition. But CU is also averaging 16.5 turnovers per outing.
Charleston will arrive in Athens with a 7-2 overall record (3-2 in conference action) averaging 87 points, 44.6 rebounds and almost 10 steals per game.
Terrell Lipkins is the Golden Eagles’ leading scorer, averaging 18 points per game, and has 21 steals in nine games. Aleksander Kesic, a 6-foot-8 freshman from Serbia, pulls down 6.1 rebounds per game and scores 12.2 points on average.
Forward Xavier Humphrey upgraded the roster when he transferred to UC from Marshall.
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The Lady Lions enter the new year with a disappointing 3-7 overall mark (2-2 WVIAC) due to key injuries, which have forced coach Kenny Osborne to cobble together lineups.
Seven CU players are averaging more than 23 minutes a game. That statistic is nearly identical to the men’s team, but for a different reason. Injuries have sidelined post player Andrea Bertrand and guard Ashley Brown.
Princeton grad Amanda Smith has been Concord’s consistent scorer. She averages 14.4 points per game and is 11th in the conference in field-goal average, making 51.5 percent of her shots.
Stephanie Wagner, a transfer from West Virginia State, has provided 40 of Concord’s 125 assists and leads the team in free throw percentage, making 21 of 26 attempts. She’s 11 for 13 in free throws during the final three minutes of games.
Freshman guard Leslie Mack, a Summers County graduate, and junior center Sammi Webster are the only active players on the roster taller than 5-foot-10.
The Lady Lions know how to hold onto the ball. The team is 14th best in NCAA Division II with an average of 14.1 turnovers per game this season.
Concord has not played a game in 25 days. Their last outing, a 64-59 win at West Virginia Wesleyan, halted a five-game losing streak. In that game, Smith had 15 points, Katy Somerville had 14 and Webster had 11 points and eight boards.
Charleston (5-4, 2-3 WVIAC) is led by first-year coach Adam Collins. The Eagles are averaging 74.1 points but are giving up 75.8 points per contest.
The top scoring threat for UC is LeAnne Ross, averaging 14 points per game. Tianni Kelly has grabbed 63 rebounds and Chrissy Keir has dished out 40 assists.
Both Concord teams will play at Bluefield State on Saturday afternoon, at Ohio Valley in Vienna on Monday night, and will host Fairmont State on Saturday, Jan. 12.
Thursday’s Lady Lions game will be broadcast on ESPN 102.3 FM and the men’s contest may be heard on WWNR, 620 AM.
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