The No. 3-ranked West Liberty University men's basketball team weathered an early second-half storm from Seton Hill before pulling away to a 74-62 win Saturday afternoon at the ASRC.
The victory clinched the ninth consecutive 20-win season for Coach Jim Crutchfield and the Hilltoppers (20-1, 14-1), who had handed the Griffins an 81-72 loss last month in Greensburg.
West Liberty's basketball program tipped off in 1923-24 but the Hilltoppers had enjoyed only two 20-win seasons before Crutchfield took the reins in 2004-05.
"We don't talk about records very much," Crutchfield said, "but I told the guys after the game that it was a significant achievement. When you look at all the great players and coaches West Liberty has had over the years and realize that had only happened twice in the entire 20th Century, it makes you stop and appreciate it."
The Hilltoppers came out with all guns blazing against a Seton Hill squad that seemed determined to milk as much time as possible off the clock on every possession.
That strategy didn't pay off early as West Liberty picked up several easy baskets off turnovers and pushed the lead as high as 24 points, 38-14, on a C.J. Hester jumper with 6:25 still showing on the first half clock.
The Griffins solved their turnover problems at the same time they discovered a perimeter shooting touch. When a desperation 3-pointer by David Windsor somehow dropped through at the buzzer, Seton Hill had cut the lead to 45-30 at halftime.
"I thought we played a really good first half," Crutchfield said, "then we got a little sloppy, they hit a couple of tough 'threes' and threw one in at the buzzer. The next thing you know, momentum had shifted. It happens."
The visitors kept right on rolling when play resumed and ultimately cut the lead to 47-44 when Windsor cashed in a layup at the end of a rare Griffin fast break with 16:11 on the clock.
All-American Alex Falk bailed out the hosts at that point, stopping the bleeding with a twisting drive to the hoop just 6 seconds later before swiping the in-bounds pass and laying it back in to make it 51-44 as the clock ticked past the 16-minute mark.
Kameron Taylor hit a short jumper for Seton Hill, cutting it back to 51-46, but the Hilltoppers had found their second wind.
A Chris Morrow 3-pointer ignited an 11-0 WLU burst that pushed the margin out to 62-46 with 12:37 remaining and the lead never dropped below double figures the rest of the way.
Falk finished with a game-high 25 points while Shawn Dyer had a strong game off the bench with 13 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Cedric Harris weighed in with 11 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds.
Windsor led the Griffins with 17 points while Max Kenyi added 15 points and Malachi Leonard had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
West Liberty hosts Ohio Valley on Monday. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at the ASRC.
X Saturday's win was the Hilltoppers' 50th consecutive WVIAC victory at the ASRC
X Falk passed current WLU assistant Ben Howlett to take over 11th place on the school's all-time scoring list with 1,670 career points
X The 74 points are the fewest scored by a West Liberty team since an 84-72 loss at No. 2-ranked Indiana (Pa.) in the finals of the 2010 NCAA Division II Atlantic Region tournament on March 16, 2010
X The Hilltoppers improved to 74-2 in their last 76 WVIAC games dating back to the 2009-10 season