After an admittedly less rigorous early season schedule than years past, WVU Tech is now making up for lost time.

And the Golden Bears cleared their first major hurdle of 2009 with a little room to spare Saturday, as they visited the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center and escaped with a 96-91 conquest of then-NAIA No. 1 Mountain State University.

Tech broke away from a 49-49 halftime tie and converted 30 of 34 free throw attempts en route to the upset of the Cougars. The Bears’ Darryl Slack had a 31-point effort, which included a 17-of-18 performance from the charity stripe.

“It was a special win,” said Tech coach Bob Williams. “There’s nothing like beating No. 1.”

In Monday’s NAIA Division I poll, MSU (14-2) tumbled to No. 4, and last week’s No. 2, 18-1 Westmister (Utah) College, moved into the top spot. Tech was bubbling just under the Top 25 with 37 points.

The Bears (14-4 overall, 1-0 in Mid-South Conference) can’t rest on their laurels, Williams stressed.

“We just got through watching the second half of the (MSU) game tape and we had a light practice,” Williams said Monday. “We want to let them enjoy it, but we’ve got to get back after it.”

The Bears will face two monster games — both Mid-South Conference contests — at home this week. On Thursday, they entertain the University of the Cumberlands (Ky.), which is 14-4 and No. 9 in the current NAIA poll. They follow that with a 4 p.m. Saturday encounter at the Baisi Athletic Center with NAIA No. 3 Georgetown (Ky.) College (18-1, 2-0 Mid-South).

“These two coming up will probably be tougher than Mountain State,” said Williams. “It should be an exciting week.”

Cumberlands defeated St. Catherine 77-46 on Jan. 17, two days after Tech disposed of St. Catharine 70-64 in its league opener. Cumberlands has split with MSU this season, winning 89-73 on Nov. 20 and losing 85-70 on Jan. 6. The Patriots, who started 10-1 but have faltered slightly since then, are led by Luke Fitzgerald’s 15.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per outing.

Georgetown, a perennial NAIA power which advanced to last year’s national semifinals, will invade Montgomery Saturday. The Tigers own a 15-game winning streak and will be led by Vic Moses (13.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game). Georgetown beat the Cumberlands 74-65 last Thursday.

Tech, tied with Lindsey Wilson (a Jan. 29 opponent) for the Mid-South’s No. 2 spot this week, will be led into this week’s action by Sam Robertson, who is scoring at a 17.0 points per game clip as well as pulling down 6.5 rebounds an outing. Slack follows at 12.2 points and 2.6 assists per outing. Also among the contributors have been Victor McGee (11.1 points, 5.8 rebounds), Robby Marshall (10.8 points), Vincent Coleman (7.8 points) and Zack Thomsen (7.5 points).

Robertson scored only four points in limited action Saturday because of foul trouble.

— E-mail: skeenan@register-herald.com

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