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No. 10 S-TU faces No. 2 UC with title at stake

by Greg Talkington

SPORTS WRITER

Salem-Teikyo University coach Mike Carey hopes the motivation of the West Virginia Conference regular season conference title excites his team tonight in a rematch with the league's No. 1 team, the University of Charleston.

The Division II No. 10 Tigers (22-2, 15-2 West Virginia Conference) lost their first meeting with the No. 2 Eagles, 105-92, on Jan. 31, and Carey believes his team hasn't been the same since the defeat.

"Since we lost that first game to Charleston, we haven't played with any emotion," Carey said. "When you play teams like Charleston or Fairmont, you better be emotionally focused.

"If we don't, they'll beat us because they are always emotionally focused for us."

Charleston All-American guard Ajamu Gaines scored a career-high 50 points during the first meeting.

That win enabled Charleston (25-2, 16-1) to gain the conference lead and the East Region No. 1 ranking from S-TU.

But a win tonight and on Saturday over Wheeling Jesuit would likely give the Tigers the conference title.

"It's still in our hands," Carey said. "A lot of people say we're in a bad spot, but I don't agree with that.

"What better opportunity could you have than to go in to a team's home gym and win the title, especially after they've already beaten you on your home floor?"

With the way Gaines always seems to play his best games against the Tigers, it may not be easy. However, UC's lone league loss came on its home floor to Glenville State in early December.

"We'll need to find a way to slow (Gaines) down," Carey said. "Hopefully, our kids will take that as a challenge and play with the kind of enthusiasm it takes to slow him down some."

Gaines isn't the only Charleston scoring threat. Backcourt mate Kalan Smith, a transfer from Rider University, averages 18.9 points.

"We're very fortunate to have two big-time guards," Charleston coach Jayson Gee said. "Kalan has stepped up several times and taken the pressure off Ajamu.

"He's hit some really clutch baskets for us this year."

Rounding out the Charleston lineup are Shawn Thigpen (11 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Chad Lee (8.4 ppg) and Willie Jones (4.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg). Emory Ogletree (6-foot-6, 245) is the team's top rebounder with 7.4 per game.

"I've told my kids this is like a prize fight. The first game was the first round, and the one here will be the second round," Gee said. "And it's likely the third and fourth will be at the Civic Center and in the NCAA Tournament.

"That's the way we're looking at it."

Senior Charles Dinkins leads the Tigers' potent attack.

All five starters average in double figures.

Dinkins averages 18.9 points. He's followed by Amilcar Butler (14.1) and 6-9, 270-pound center Ed Jenkins (13.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg) Rounding out the starting lineup are Leroy Blyden (10 ppg, 9.0 rpg) and Mike Thompson (11 ppg, 3.8 apg).

"Mike is excellent at making adjustments," Gee said. "Last year he crushed us the second time we played them.

"As for my team, it's hard to say, but I believe someone will pick it up. Right now, this is 'The Game.'"

Tip-off is 7:30 p.m. at the Eddie King Gymnasium.

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