By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
The Battle of the Bluefields lived up to its reputation.
There was an electric atmosphere fueled by a standing room only crowd, intensity from both sides and the excitement that an inner-city rivalry should have.
Kearsten Marion scored 24 points and Byron Carpenter added 23, as the Bluefield Rams were able to run past Bluefield State 90-76 on Wednesday night at a packed Dome Gymnasium.
Bluefield (1-1) was able to win its first game of the season after dropping its opener last Saturday to Virginia University of Lynchburg.
“I thought the other night would be (our first win),” Bluefield College head coach Richard Morgan said. “We just didn’t shoot well for whatever reason, but tonight we played better.”
They had too. Of the 13 players on the Bluefield State roster, only four played last season, That influx of talent helped the Big Blues jump out to early leads of 6-1 and 20-16 before shooting woes allowed the Rams to pull away to take a 35-28 lead at the break.
“I thought our guys did a good job of coming out and competing,” Morgan said. “We had to weather the storm, they came at us a little bit and we weathered it and the next thing you know are back in the game.
“Our guys really did a good job that we came out and competing hard tonight.”
Bluefield State now has a roster that includes players from seven states, along with Washington, D.C., while 6-9 Christian Jugah is from Nigeria and 6-8 Samuel Ouedraogo hails from Burkina Faso.
Rebounding had hurt the Rams in its exhibition defeat against Marshall and its season opener last week, but Bluefield was able to crash the boards against the bigger Blues and stay within four, 46-42, on the stat sheet.
“We have been stressing the fact that we have been beat on the boards in every game so we had to come out tonight and try to fend against them where they are so big and so physical,” Morgan said. “I thought our guys did a good job of handling it.”
Carpenter had 12 points for Bluefield at the break, and finished with 23, along with nine rebounds and two blocked shots. Marion’s 24 points included a couple of long second half 3s, while Deante Hallums added 10 for the Rams.
Devin Page added nine points and seven boards for the Rams, while Tucker Hobbie contributed eight points and six boards off the bench. Andrew Wilson scored eight points and matched Shaheem Jones with three assists apiece.
Bluefield used a 16-5 run early in the second half, sparked by six points from Carpenter and two 3s by Marion, and eventually built the margin to as many as 20 points, 65-45, on a 3 and two free throws by Marion with 12:14 to go. The Rams made six 3s in the game, compared to one for the Blues.
Still, Morgan was quick to point out the ball went to Carpenter in crunch time.
“We had to go to the horse, we had to go to Byron,” Morgan said. “He feeds us late in the game, we have got to feed him so we can score.
“He is a guy that wants to do it, he doesn’t mind having that pressure so that is good to have that.”
Bluefield State, which was just 1-of-15 from 3-point range, never allowed the lead to get any larger than 20, but could never get any closer than 13 the rest of the way.
The Blues shot just 38.5 percent from the field, compared to 50.8 for the Rams. Bluefield State, which had struggled with numbers in recent seasons, played 13 players, including 10 for at least 10 minutes apiece.
Morgan was impressed with the Blues, who have showed potential in three preseason scrimmages to be ready to compete for wins when the season opens for real on Nov. 20 at Pitt-Johnstown.
Wednesday’s game won’t count in the standings for the Blues, since Division II schools aren’t allowed to officially play until Friday.
“Hats off to them,” Morgan said. “They are definitely way better than they used to be. It is going to be continue to be a great rivalry.”
The Blues were led by Remar Brothers with 18 points and three steals, while Daven Morris tallied 11 points and Treon Claiborne added 10 points and six rebounds. Gary Martin and Johnny Uhegwu scored eight points each, while Jugah pulled down seven boards.
—Contact Brian Woodson