Now that fans are allowed to attend WVU Tech games at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center again, men's basketball coach James Long thinks they will be entertained. It was certainly on display Saturday.
Ashton Parker and Thomas Hailey put on a dunk show, the Golden Bears took a 23-point lead at halftime and then coasted to an 84-53 win over Ohio Christian.
Much like Tech's 84-69 win at Ohio Christian on Jan. 23, Parker and Hailey took turns rattling the rim. The first points of the game came off a dunk from Parker, who had four in the game. Hailey had three, including a one-handed slam off the feed from Philip Mullins in the first half.
"Ashton and Thomas can definitely throw some dunks together, so if you come to the Armory to watch us, you will definitely see some dunks," Long said. "They do a great job cutting, do a great job rebounding, getting out in transition."
Long said that part of the game serves to illustrate how in sync his players are.
"The team just understands each other," he said. "I don't think there's a way to prepare for it. These guys just do a really good job of playing off each other."
Tech (8-5) led by 11 early before Ohio Christian got to within 26-21. That changed in a decisive way, with the Golden Bears closing the first half on a 20-2 run to lead 46-23 at the break. Tamon Scuggs had eight points over that six-minute span and Andreas Jonsson nailed a pair of 3-pointers.
The Trailblazers scored the first five points of the second half to try to gain some confidence, but Scruggs' 3-pointer at the 18:16 mark quickly put an end to that.
The Golden Bears did fizzle offensively in the second half, shooting just 10-of-30 (3-of-17 from 3) after shooting 66.7 percent before halftime. But Ohio Christian was never able to get closer than 18, thanks in part to 12 turnovers and a 5-of-10 showing at the free throw line.
Tech held a whopping 32-2 advantage in points off turnovers.
Parker finished just short of a double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds. He is a player who has progressively gotten better during an inconsistent season.
"He's been really special in glimpses and I actually told him that after the game," Long said. "I said, 'Throughout the season you've increasingly put more time together into who you can be.' I tell him all the time he can be one of the most special players in the conference and the country. It's been 10 minutes at first, then you put a half together. Now you're getting there. You've put about 80 percent of your time together. If you can ever put it all together, there's nothing you can't do. He passes it, he shoots it. He can literally do everything."
Scruggs scored a game-high 17 points, 12 in the first half, and brought down six boards. Jonsson had 15 points and Juvanté Hayes 14 despite missing most of the first half with two early fouls.
Titus Burns finished with 13 points and seven rebounds and Juan Woods scored 11 for Ohio Christian (4-10). Justin Barksdale, the Trailblazers' leading scorer and rebounder on the season, was held to three points and three boards.
Getting to play in front of a crowd was a luxury not lost on Long.
"This whole Covid situation has just put everything into perspective," he said. "I appreciated it last year; I have never not appreciated it. But seeing everyone back in there was just such a cool feeling. You felt it. It was a limited capacity, but it didn't matter. You just felt it in your bones. And I'm glad these guys' families could come watch them. That's really important. They've been sacrificing their whole lives for their sons on our team and it's really cool for them to be here."
Tech will travel to Carlow on Tuesday and Alice Lloyd on Thursday before returning home next Saturday, Feb. 13, to host Point Park. The tip-off time for that game has not been announced.
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