Ryan captures debut as Cards men’s coach
WHEELING — There is probably no men’s basketball program in the country that has faced as much, and the many types, of adversity suffered by that of Wheeling University over the last couple of years.
However, Wednesday night first-year Coach Will Ryan and his Cardinals put that all behind them as they started a new chapter heading into their season opener with visiting Seton Hill.
Sophomore Emmanuel Ansong supplied a double-double with game-highs of 20 points and 10 rebounds while junior Jordan Reid scored 16 with a dazzling display of moves near the basket as Wheeling University rolled to a 73-61 victory over the Griffins at the Alma Grace McDonough Center.
The victory was the first for Ryan, son of former Wisconsin coaching great Bo Ryan, as a college head coach.
“Basketball has always been good to me and being a head coach is fun,” Ryan said. “Growing up as a coach’s kid you always envision things like this, but you don’t realize it may be at Wheeling University. You don’t know where this crazy game is going to take you, but I am going to enjoy it.”
It wasn’t a wire-to-wire win for the Cardinals, but the hosts did lead for 37:06 of clock time in a game that featured four lead changes, all which occurred within a three-minute stretch late in the first half.
Wheeling jumped out to the early lead and watched it expand to 10 points by virtue of a 6-0 run that culminated with a Jay Gentry basket at 9:14 of the opening half that made it a 25-15 count.
A short time later Seton Hill had four different players score during a 10-0 spurt that provided the first lead change on a conventional three-point play from Jimmy Moon that turned the score at 32-29.
After three more lead changes the Cardinals finally took the lead for good on a nice Reid move in the paint that spear-headed a 9-0 run into the half and a 42-34 advantage for the hosts.
A pair of slams by Ansong helped push the margin to 51-40 early in the second half. Another key moment came with the Redbirds up 56-49 when Nathan Meriwether buried a 3-pointer just as the shot clock turned to zero and moments after Reid went to the bench with a minor leg injury that kept him off the court for a few minutes.
Seton Hill never got closer than seven points the rest of the way with Ansong putting an explanation point on the victory with a windmill slam off of a steal with just two minutes remaining.
“Our goal is to make the other team have to play defense,” Ryan said of his team running shot clock in the second half. “We aren’t looking for possessions with one or no passes.
“After everything that has gone on here, and me taking over this job in July, I thought the guys did a really good job, especially sharing the basketball, for the first time out. And I liked only 10 turnovers in the opener, but that number also needs to come down.
“This hasn’t been an easy task, but this is a good group and I feel real good about the group of junior college and freshmen kids that we have here. The guys have bought in to everything pretty quickly, which is why you coach, but as always, there is plenty of room to get better.
“Jordan Reid is only 6-foot-1, but the kid plays inside like he is 6-8 and he has really adapted well to ball fakes and going against bigger kids. Then you have guys like Manny (Ansong) and Gentry who are only sophomores but from what I have seen on film have grown leaps and bounds from last year.
“It’s so much fun coaching kids like that with all the energy they bring.”
Jarett Haines added 13 points and Gentry 12 for Wheeling, which also grabbed a 39-37 edge off the glass. Jeremiah April, a 7-foot. senior post, pulled down eight rebounds for the winners.
Moon and Nathan Davis paced the Griffins with 12 points each.