Tusculum 6-5,2-2 SAC
West Virginia St. 12-1,6-1 MEC
|West Virginia St.||40||33||73|
ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands – The No. 16 West Virginia State men’s basketball team defeated the Tusculum Pioneers in the championship game of the YES U.S. Virgin Islands Classic, 73-59. The victory was head coach Bryan Poore‘s 400th victory of his collegiate head coaching career. The game was back and forth with five lead changes and a tie until the Yellow Jacket (12-1, 6-1 MEC) defense held Tusculum (6-5, 2-2 SAC) scoreless for over seven minutes in the first half.
Samier Kinsler led the Yellow Jacket scoresheet with 18 points, 15 of them in the first half. Kinsler shot 6-of-9 from the field and 5-of-8 from behind the arc. He also pulled down two boards, was credited with an assist and a steal. Anthony Pittman added 13 points to go along with five rebounds, five assists and a steal. Iban Loyal was the final double-digit scorer for WVSU, putting 12 points on the board and gathering five more rebounds.
Tusculum was led by Inady Legiste who had 14 points and six rebounds.
West Virginia State scored 24 of their points off of fast breaks, compared to just four points for the Pioneers.
Tusculum took a 4-3 lead early in the first half. Malik Whittaker then started a 6-0 run for the Yellow Jackets on a layup courtesy of a Taevon Horton assist. Noah Jordan added a layup with help from Dwaine Jones, and Pittman capped off the run with a layup of his own, forcing a Pioneer timeout with the Jackets up 9-4 at the 15:18 mark.
The Pioneers immediately hit back-to-back threes to retake the lead and Horton responded with a hook shot from Pittman to once again put the Yellow Jackets in front. Horton’s hook shot was the start of an 18-1 run for the Yellow Jackets over the next nine minutes in which the Yellow Jacket defense held the Pioneers to 0-12 shooting. Tusculum finally ended the drought at the 4:46 mark, but the Jackets now held a 27-13 lead. A late foul at the end of the half sent Miguel Martinez to the charity stripe where he converted both attempts to give State the 40-23 lead at the half. State shot 15-of-31 from the field, compared to 9-of-33 for the Pioneers.
State scored the first seven points of the second half with Jordan hitting a trey and a jumper and Pittman slamming one through, 47-23. Tusculum put together a 14-3 run over a four-minute span of the half, with State’s only field goal coming from a Loyal layup. The Pioneers got as close as nine at the 6:56 mark but Pittman re-extended the lead with a turn-around jumper, 55-66. Tusculum scored with 3:53 left in the game to close the lead back to 12, but the Yellow Jacket defense held firm and didn’t allow another point to be scored, and State came away with the 73-59 victory.
Anthony Pittman was named tournament Most Valuable Player with 25 points, eight assists and 12 rebounds.
State will resume their Mountain East schedule with a 4:00 pm showdown against the West Virginia Wesleyan Bobcats on Saturday, Jan. 7th in Buckhannon.