Shaw's Raheem Smith Has Career Night As Shaw Loses to
March 13, 2011
(West Liberty, WV) - On what would become the final night of his collegiate career, Raheem Smith exploded for a career-high 36 points - including 27 in the first half alone - but it wasn't enough as Shaw fell to the nation's highest ranked team, West Liberty, 98-93. The NCAA Atlantic Regional Semi-final was played on WLU's home court.
Shaw (23-9) had their highest offensive outburst of the season and held West Liberty (31-0) below 100 - only the second time all season the Hilltoppers have been held under triple digits on their home court.
"This was a great game from a fan standpoint. We were up and down the court, throwing in three pointers and playing good defense," said Shaw Head Coach Cleo Hill, Jr. "Both teams played hard, but in the end, the home team won."
In the end, the game was decided at the free throw line. The Bears went to the charity stripe 12 times -- hitting eight -- while the Hilltoppers found themselves shooting 31 free throws, sinking 26.
But the story of the night - even in defeat - was Raheem Smith.
He opened the game hitting his first ten shots, and missed only four of his 19 shot attempts.
"We knew number two (Smith) was a good shooter," said West Liberty Head Coach Jim Crutchfield. "He's a great scorer. We scouted the previous game, which he pretty well sat out with foul trouble. We saw close up in the first half just how dangerous he was."
"I wasn't trying to go ten for ten," said Smith. "I just didn't want a blow out. But the basket was kind of big. I was just trying to do what I could to help the team win. It was my career night."
Smith's concern about a blow out was a valid one as the Bears came into the game. WLU was 30-0 coming into the game, averaging over 100 points a game, on a 47-game home winning streak, the number one team in the nation, and had just blown the doors off Slippery Rock 117-73 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
The key was not to let West Liberty to go on long scoring runs. The Bears took that to heart. Throughout the first half, the most unanswered points the Hilltoppers could manage was six. Even then, the Bears fought back almost immediately, even building small leads.
Fueled by Raheem Smith's 27, the Bears trailed only 48-46 going into halftime.
Over the first three minutes of the second half, West Liberty extended the lead to nine, but again Shaw clawed its way back into the game, cutting the lead to one with 6:56 left in the game when David Jones hit a jumper to make the score 78-77.
With 1:46 left in the game, Devon Mclendon hit a free throw to cut the WLU lead to 89-86 and infuse the Bears with energy, but at the other end of the floor Hilltopper center John Wolosinczuk pulled up just outside the arc and drained a three to increase the lead back to six. They lengthened it to eight, but the Bears cut the lead to five by the end of the contest 98-93.
The Hilltoppers took 32 three pointers, hitting ten. The Bears took only nine, but made five. Shaw shot 61.5 percent from the field, while WLU shot only 49.2 percent. The Bears were eight for 12 from the free throw line, while WLU hit 26 of their 31 attempts - 15 for 15 in the first half alone.
The Hilltoppers were led by Corey Pelle with 23 points, while Wolosinczuk and Alex Falk each had 20. Barry Shetzer added 12. Wolosinczuk led both teams with nine re bounds, and Pelle had six assists.
After a first half where he scored only four points, Tony Smith finished the game with 20 points. "We proved we belonged here tonight," he said after the game. He also led both teams with seven assists and pulled in eight rebounds to lead the Bears.
In addition to his 36 points, Raheem Smith had five assists and five rebounds. Greg Thomas had 11 points for the Bears and Devon Mclendon had ten to round out the Bears double digit scorers.
As the 2010-2011 season ended, some in the press room turned their eyes to 2011-2012 when Tony Smith, Mclendon and Thomas are all expected to return.
"Losing Raheem is pretty big," said Hill. "You're not going to find many players at this level who can play at Raheem's level. We've got to try to replace at least some of what Raheem does. And we hope to get a little bigger. But we've got a strong core coming back."
Raheem Smith added, "If everyone keeps their academics good, they'll be back here next season."