By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The Bluefield State College Big Blues accomplished a feat on Saturday evening that they had not done since February 2011 — winning back-to-back basketball games.
As their home crowd went into a frenzy of cheering, Bluefield State wrapped up a 92-83 victory over the Shepherd Rams with a 6-for-8 free throw performance in the final minute of play at the Ned Shott Gymnasium.
All five starters for the Big Blues (2-16, 2-12 West Virginia Conference) scored 11 or more points, despite the half-court trap defense of Shepherd (11-6, 8-5).
Bluefield State head coach Jamaal Jackson said, “Our motto is, we punish teams when they press us. We were able to break the press, and once we broke it, we didn’t pull back. We attacked the basket.”
He said about his team, “I try to give them supreme confidence. I tell them, if you’re open, you shoot it. If you’re on the floor, that means I have confidence that you’ll knock it down.”
The Big Blues went ahead 3-2 on a three-pointer by Avery Holliday, but fell behind 8-3 before battling back into the lead, 21-19, when Steven Pierre drove to the hoop with 13:45 on the clock. The score remained tight through the rest of the first half.
Roy Cooper nailed a three-pointer from the top of the key to give BSC a 48-44 lead with 1:23 left before intermission. Each team hit a couple of foul shots after that and the home squad led 50-46 at halftime.
Bluefield State shot 65.4 percent from the field in the half, which Jackson said was the best percentage since he’s coached the Big Blues.
“They were definitely hot, to shoot that percentage,” he said. “They were just getting open shots. Again, with (Shepherd) pressing and trapping, they were getting open shots, and if you can’t knock down the open shot, you shouldn’t be playing college basketball.”
But at the break, Shepherd had 20 rebounds to 10 for Bluefield State.
“They killed us on the boards, especially in the first half, on the offensive boards,” Jackson said.
That changed in the second period, when BSC out-rebounded its guests 23 to 16, but Jackson was still not happy Shepherd’s 17 offensive rebounds and 70 field-goal attempts. The coach noted that Shepherd started three players who were 6-foot-5 or taller.
He said, “We’re 6-2, 6-3 guys across the board, then there’s Sam (Ouedraogo at 6-foot-8), so if we’re out there having jumping contests with 6-7 guys, that’s never going to work. I was trying to get them to hit somebody, move them out of the way.”
Ouedraogo, a BSC newcomer, finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Jackson said, “That’s what carried us tonight. He was physical, he was on the glass, he was tough. Fourteen points? He’s been playing basketball for not (even) six years. He doesn’t even understand the game yet.”
“Sam’s job is to rebound. So for him to have 14 points, that’s a great bonus.”
Bluefield State never trailed in the second half, but a baseline drive by Shepherd’s Chad Moore produced a 77-75 score with 5:17 remaining.
About a minute later, Rams head coach Justin Namolik was assessed a technical foul and Joseph Dawkins’ free throws restored a four-point lead.
Austin Cunningham of Shepherd narrowed the gap to 86-83 with 53 seconds left when he hit a three from the top of the arc. The Rams did not score again, going one-and-done on three possessions, and the home team padded its lead at the foul line.
Cooper said, “We knew they were going to make some shots, and miss some. We’re all human. We had to get rebounds and we concentrated on limiting them to one shot. We had to be able to stop their runs at the end.”
Cooper had 24 points to lead the Bluefield State scoring. Dawkins had 17 points and four assists, Holliday had 15 points and Treon Claiborne had 11.
For Shepherd, Chad Moore had 25 points and four steals. Morgan McDonald had 12 points and 14 rebounds.
The previous consecutive wins for the BSC men came in a 66-59 upset victory at West Virginia State on Feb. 12, 2011, followed a week later by a 71-57 home win over Wheeling Jesuit.
Bluefield State’s attempt to win its third straight game will take them to West Liberty University on Monday night. The Hilltoppers (17-1) lead the West Virginia Conference.
“West Liberty’s a good team,” Cooper said. “It’s going to take a lot. But if we break their press, and keep playing defense, we believe we can do it.”
— Contact Tom Bone at