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Cavs aim to keep exceeding expectations in MEC tourney

Kevin Mays • Mar 4, 2019 at 9:28 PM

WISE — The Virginia-Wise men’s and women’s basketball teams head to Wheeling, West Virginia, this week for Mountain East Conference tournament action after exceeding expectations — at least those of league coaches.

The Cavaliers were picked to finish either last or next to last in their final season of the league. The NCAA Division II school is joining the South Atlantic Conference in the fall.

FORWARD MARCH

Virginia-Wise’s women made big strides under first-year coach Jamie Cluesman.

The Cavaliers (13-15) were picked to finish the regular season dead last in the 12-team conference this season. Instead, they earned the sixth seed for the MEC tournament.

Virginia-Wise takes on third-seeded Concord (22-6) on Thursday at 2:15 p.m. in the quarterfinals. The Mountain Lions won both regular-season meetings, including a 75-65 victory on Saturday.

“We’ll have a better game plan,” Cluesman said of the upcoming meeting with Concord, adding: “I thought our defensive strategy was good (on Saturday).”

In their previous game, the Cavs held Concord’s Riley Fitzwater, who leads the nation in NCAA DII field-goal percentage, to eight points.

Cluesman said the Cavs must attack the basket to be successful.

“We’ve got to really adjust the offensive end and start attacking that zone and quit being so passive,” she said.

The Cavs also need a good effort from leading scorer Cynita Webb — named to the All-MEC second team on Monday — and Ada Stanley to find success in the tournament. Webb is averaging a double-double of 13.6 points and 11 rebounds per game. Stanley takes a 10.6 ppg average into the tournament.

MEN LOOKING TO STOP SLIDE

After being picked to finish 11th in the MEC men’s race, the Cavs (9-19) held on, got a break or two along the way and claimed the 10th and final conference tournament seed.

Virginia-Wise meets seventh-seeded Shepherd (13-15) on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the opening round. The Cavs lost both regular-season meetings with the Rams but both were close, including a heartbreaking one-point loss at home in January.

Virginia-Wise had a chance at a higher seed but dropped two MEC games at home in the final week of the regular season. Cavs coach Blake Mellinger is hoping to see his team break out of its skid.

“We haven’t been as crisp offensively as we need to be, particularly at this point of the season,” Mellinger said. “We need to cut a little harder, we need to screen a little better, we need to space the floor a little better.”

Youth spearheads the Cavs. Briggs Parris averages 16.2 points per game — hitting 100 3-pointers this season — and fellow freshman Cameron Whiteside gets 13.2 ppg. Junior Eric Okenchie is contributing an average of 12 points and 6.7 rebounds a game.


MOUNTAIN EAST CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS

At Wesbanco Arena

Wheeling, W.Va.

MEN

Wednesday

First round

No. 7 Shepherd vs. No. 10 Virginia-Wise, 6 p.m.

No. 8 West Virginia Wesleyan vs. No. 9 Wheeling Jesuit, 8:15 p.m.

Friday

Quarterfinals

No. 2 Fairmont State vs. Shepherd/Virginia-Wise winner, 12 noon

No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 6 West Virginia State, 2:15 p.m.

No. 1 West Liberty vs. WV Wesleyan/Wheeling Jesuit winner, 6 p.m.

No. 4 Charleston vs. No. 5 Concord, 8:15 p.m.

Saturday

Semifinals

West Liberty/WV Wesleyan/Wheeling Jesuit winner vs. Charleston/Concord winner, 6 p.m.

Fairmont/Shepherd/Virginia-Wise winner vs. Notre Dame/WV State winner, 8:15 p.m.

Sunday

Championship

Semifinal winners, 4 p.m.

WOMEN

Wednesday

First Round

No. 7 Fairmont State vs. No. 10 West Virginia Wesleyan, 12 noon

No. 8 Shepherd vs. No. 9 West Virginia State, 2:15 p.m.

Thursday

Quarterfinals

No. 2 Charleston vs. Fairmont State/WV Wesleyan winner, 12 noon

No. 3 Concord vs. No. 6 Virginia-Wise, 2:15 p.m.

No. 1 Glenville State vs. Shepherd/WV State winner, 6 p.m.

No. 4 West Liberty vs. No. 5 Notre Dame, 8:15 p.m.

Saturday

Semifinals

Glenville/Shepherd/WV State winner vs. West Liberty/Notre Dame winner, 12 noon

Charleston/Fairmont/WV Wesleyan winner vs. Concord/Virginia-Wise winner, 8:15 p.m.

Sunday

Championship

Semifinal winners, 1 p.m.

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