Unbeaten and No. 1-ranked West Liberty stormed back from its largest halftime deficit in four years here Thursday night, pulling away to an 81-72 victory against upset-minded Seton Hill at the McKenna Center.
Trailing 48-35 at intermission, Coach Jim Crutchfield's Hilltoppers (14-0, 8-0) turned up the heat on the Griffins (6-6, 3-5) when play resumed.
West Liberty forced a series of turnovers at the start of the second half and turned them into instant offense, reeling off 11 unanswered points in the opening 90 seconds to trim the gap to 48-46.
The hosts found their footing briefly and pushed the lead back out to 53-48 on a Max Kenyi hoop at 17:21 but the Hilltoppers answered with the decisive run of the game.
After Cedric Harris and Alex Falk hit 3-of-4 free throws to make it a one-possession game, 53-51, Kenyi – who had led the Griffins with 16 points in the first half – picked up his fourth foul on a technical and went to the bench.
Tim Hausfeld made both technical free throws to tie the game at 53 and C.J. Hester put West Liberty ahead to stay, 55-53, with a rebound basket at 15:57. Harris then came up with a steal and got the ball to Hausfeld, who drained a 28-footer that brought the WLU bench to its feet.
Chris Morrow capped the 12-0 run by finishing off a pretty give-and-go from Kelvin Goodwin for a 60-53 Hilltopper lead less than 5 minutes into the second half.
Seton Hill made a minor run down the stretch, cutting the lead to 71-68 with just over 6 minutes to go, but West Liberty converted three consecutive steals into three consecutive lay ups and coasted the rest of the way.
Harris led all scorers with 29 points while also handing out 5 assists and coming up with 6 steals. Falk finished with 13 points and 4 steals while Hester had a dozen points and a game-high 8 rebounds. Hausfeld and Morrow rounded out the double-figure scorers with 11 each.
Kenyi and Nate Perry had 18 and 17 points, respectively, for Seton Hill, which had nearly as many turnovers (16) as shots (20) in the second half and was outscored, 46-24, over the final 20 minutes.
The Hilltoppers are idle this weekend but face another tough road test on Monday with a 7:30 p.m. game at Charleston.
X Morrow became the 41st member of West Liberty's 1,000-Point Club as his final basket of the night gave him 1,001 career points
X Seton Hill's 48-35 lead at the break was the largest halftime deficit for a Hilltopper team since Glenville State took a 63-50 edge into the locker room en route to a 108-105 victory on Jan. 24, 2009 in Glenville
X West Liberty's 81 points was the lowest total for a West Liberty team since an 81-67 victory at Saint Leo (Fla.) on Dec. 17, 2011
X The Hilltoppers improved to 68-1 in their last 69 WVIAC games