The Wheeling Jesuit men's basketball team is riding a three- game winning streak into this weekend's showdown with rival West Liberty University after defeating the No. 23 ranked team in the country the University of Charleston on the road Thursday evening. The Cardinals captured the lead early in the second half after a 34-34 stalemate at the break, and outplayed the Golden Eagles down the stretch for a 68-67 victory.
Joe Prati led the Cardinals' offense with 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field which included a 2-for-5 effort from downtown. Justin Fritts followed with 14 points with a 4-for-8 performance from beyond the arc, and Ben Siefert added eight points, eight assists and a team-high eight rebounds. Andre Harris also chipped in eight points, while Recardo Gaddy contributed seven points.
Wheeling Jesuit controlled the glass during the first half which allowed second chance shots to keep the game close through the initial 20 minutes. In the second half, Fritts knocked down the first bucket from long distance for a 37-34 advantage, and the Cardinals continued to hold on to a slim lead the rest of the way. At 12:02, Jesuit extended the advantage to seven points, 51-44, but the Golden Eagles quickly closed the gap with a 5-0 run.
The Cardinals responded with a Fritts 3-pointer and pushed the lead back to five points, 56-51, on a lay up by Siefert. With 5:22 remaining in the contest, Fritts intercepted an errant pass and Prati found Gaddy for an easy bucket and a 64-61 advantage. The Golden Eagles gave one final effort to steal the lead before time expired, but good defense, timely rebounds and a pair of lay ups by Prati sealed the 68-67 victory.
The Cardinals will be back in action on Saturday, January 26 at the Alma Grace McDonough Center against the No.5 ranked and area-rival West Liberty University. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.