By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
Two games in less than 24 hours, two wins by a combined 57 points.
No wonder Bluefield College head coach Richard Morgan was all smiles after the Rams ran past West Virginia Tech 97-62 in the conclusion of the Ramey Car Classic on Saturday afternoon at the Dome Gymnasium.
That came a few hours after the Rams had beaten Barber Scotia on Friday 74-52.
“I am very pleased, last night I didn’t think the effort was quite as high as it was today,” Morgan said. “I think they were looking ahead this one, this one means a lot because we have played them a lot and they used to be in the league.”
Bluefield improved 5-2, while the Golden Bears fell to 8-6.
“I think our guys were looking at this hopefully,” Morgan said. “They came out today really focused and understanding what was at stake and what we need to do to get the win.”
They did just fine, with six Rams reaching double figures, led by sophomore Eric Dukes, who came off the bench to score 18 points.
“He has done a great job for us,” Morgan said. “He is coming off a knee (injury) so you kind of worried about how he was going to respond, but 18 points, that is the best he has done in a Rams uniform.”
Andrew Wilson added 14 points, including a trio of 3s, while Alex Lubsey and Kearsten Marion had 13 points and Josh Nesbit and Kyle Grigsby tossed in 12 points each.
Bluefield had 11 3s, including four by Grigsby, a transfer from Milligan, who has joined Wilson and Marion to give the Rams a talented collection of quick guards.
Marion had five steals and also dished out five assists for the Rams.
“(Grigsby) killed us at Milligan so I figured if you can’t beat, them join them,’ said Morgan, with a smile. “We made him come over and join us.”
That trio helped force 26 West Virginia Tech turnovers, while committing just 10 of their own.
Bluefield College has now won five of six non-exhibition games since an opening season loss to crosstown rival Bluefield State.
“I am very, very pleased, after losing over at Bluefield State I wasn’t sure what was going to happen,” said Morgan, whose Rams have dropped exhibition games to King, Virginia State and Bowie State. “Our guys came back into the gym and they was willing to work and we worked out some things and I think we are ready to go now.”
Bluefield built an early 21-10 lead, keyed by a pair of 3s from Grigsby, but the Bears whittled the margin down to two at 25-23 and 27-25, led by 6-foot-6 forward Jauries Thomas, who had 10 of his 22 points in the opening half, making four dunks against the Rams.
Morgan quickly called a timeout at 27-25. The Rams followed with a 17-4 run to build the halftime advantage to 44-29, with Lubsey and Dukes making consecutive dunks, followed by 3s from Devin Page and Grigsby.
“I just told them to settle down, settle down,” Morgan said. “Let’s get good shots, let’s go inside some and see if they can handle it in there and then from there, let’s play.
“The biggest thing is we have got to be able to play.”
Bluefield extended that run to 33-7 in the second half, scoring 15 straight points after Jaren Marino put the Bears on the board first with a basket and free throw.
That lead grew to 62-34 with 16:17 left on the clock, and the Rams cruised from there, making seven second half 3s, including four straight to end the game, two from Wilson and one apiece by Mike Collins and former Bland County shooting star Asher Dillow.
Grigsby started in place of Wilson against the Bears as Morgan continues to tinker with various combinations, but that duo and Marion did just fine, combining for 39 points, nine assists, eight steals and five rebounds for the Rams.
Nesbit, Lubsey and Dukes were equally effective on the inside, combining for 43 points and 16 rebounds. Lubsey and Nesbit had six boards each.
Bluefield connected on 49.3 percent of its shot attempts, including 11-of-23 from the 3-point line. The Bears, which outrebounded the Rams 39-38, hit 41.7 percent from the field, and were 3-of-13 from long range.
“It is really game by game, we kind of look at how we can do it,” Morgan said. “Anytime you can get four guys or five guys in double figures that is the way you want to play.”
Marino added 11 points for the Bears, who made just three 3s, while Armond Perez added eight points and eight rebounds.
Bluefield College will return to the court on Thursday with the first of two exhibition games with Division I foes, with a trip on tap to North Carolina-Asheville. That will be followed later in the month at Appalachian State, but basketball will take a backseat now for at least the next couple of days.
For a very good reason.
“We have got exams first,” Morgan said. “That is the biggest thing, we have got exams, once we knock those out we will be ready to go.”
St. Catharine defeated Barber Scotia 74-48 in Saturday’s first game.
—Contact Brian Woodson