Of the past six meetings between West Chester and Cheyney in men’s basketball – all won by the Wolves – five of the six games had been decided by seven or eight points.
In front of 1,245 fans inside Cope Hall Wednesday night, the Golden Rams didn’t just snap their losing streak against their cross-town rivals. They obliterated it in convincing fashion, as West Chester (9-8, 6-7 PSAC East) dominated from start to finish in a 79-49 beat down of the Wolves. It was the largest margin of victory by the Golden Rams against Cheyney (3-13, 2-11) in the history of the series.
“Before we came here, I told them to make sure they maintained their focus throughout the game,” said West Chester head coach Damien Blair. “When you come to an environment like this, the other team starts playing to the crowd, we start playing to the crowd, and our kids didn’t feed into that. They continued to follow the game plan on both ends of the floor and I think that’s why they were so successful.”
After losing four of five games this season in which their opponents shot 50 percent from the field or better, the Golden Rams turned the tables, shooting a season high 54.2 percent (12-for-23) from the field, including 6-of-12 from beyond the arc, while holding the Wolves to 16-for-49 (32.7 percent) shooting from the field.
West Chester also dominated the glass, grabbing 37 rebounds to Cheyney’s 23; the Golden Rams recorded 29 defensive rebounds while the Wolves managed only 18.
“It’s nice to be on the other end of when we play well and someone else plays poorly,” Blair said.
The mood in the home locker room wasn’t as encouraging, as Cheyney played only nine players – including seven walk-ons. Jason Sabb and Brandon Baylor – the Wolves two recruited players – scored 19 and 14 points respectively. The remaining seven players scored a combined 16 points – or, four fewer points than West Chester’s Lance McDowell, who finished with a game-high 20 points and 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the season.
“We just have to go back to the drawing board,” said a flustered Cheyney head coach Dominique Stephens. “We just had too many mental lapses. Our game plan from the start just seemed like it went in one ear and right out the other.”
The Golden Rams seemingly took the crowd out of the game early, thanks to a 16-3 run over the opening six minutes of the game. The Wolves did get as close as 24-19 with 6:56 left, but they couldn’t overcome McDowell, who missed Saturday’s game with a toe injury. Nor could they overcome a red-hot Carl Johnson (15 points), who has averaged 16.2 points in his last five games.
“Lance did an excellent job of coming in and giving us a presence in the paint,” Blair said. “Carl’s been doing what he’s been doing; he’s getting to the basket, making his foul shots, and right now there aren’t many people that can stop him.”
Coming off the bench for the first time in his career at West Chester didn’t bother the senior forward and the Golden Rams’ leading scorer.
“I’m all in with whatever the game plan is,” McDowell said. “(Blair) told me he needed to come off the bench today, so that’s what I did. I’m not one of those dudes who worry about what he wants me to do, I just do whatever he tells me to do.”
With 4:32 left in the first half, the game was delayed for five minutes after problems arose with one of the nets. The delay came after Johnson was fouled by Baylor.
Once the nets were fixed, Johnson proceeded to sink both foul shots, despite the unusually long delay. It was that kind of night for the Wolves, as the Golden Rams would take a 34-23 lead at halftime.
It was a 17-6 run midway through the second half, however, that proved to be the Wolves’ undoing. By the time it was 59-38 West Chester, most of the Cheyney fans had left Cope Hall. The Golden Rams outscored Cheyney 45-26 in the second half.
After a 1-5 road trip, West Chester sports a three game winning streak heading into this afternoon’s battle for third place at East Stroudsburg. The back-to-back home wins against Shippensburg and PSAC East leading Bloomsburg seemed to spark the Golden Rams.
“Coming back home definitely helped us,” Johnson said. “It’s tough to win road games. Right now, we’re playing good ball and we’re trying to keep it rolling.”
Also helping West Chester’s cause is the return of Jon Breeden, who had missed three games with a concussion and returned to the lineup in Saturday’s 70-64 win over Bloomsburg. Breeden added 10 points and five rebounds, marking the 13th consecutive game he has scored at least 10 points. The only time Breeden failed to crack the double-digit mark this season was the Golden Rams’ opener against the University of the Sciences.
Though a win at Koehler Field House could help the Golden Rams’ playoff chances, Blair isn’t looking too far ahead to the post-season with nine games left.
“We can’t worry about anything ahead of us but East Stroudsburg,” he said. “They press, press, press and we need to take care of the ball and finish. If we do that, we’ll give ourselves an opportunity to win.”