No.1 West Liberty Does It With Defense - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

No.1 West Liberty Does It With Defense

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Shawn Dyer tossed in a game-high 21 points and No. 1 West Liberty held the nation's best 3-point shooting team to its worst shooting night of the season Thursday night in coasting to a 78-66 win against Pitt-Johnstown in a West Virginia Conference tournament quarterfinal at the Civic Center Coliseum.

Coach Jim Crutchfield's Hilltoppers (28-1) will continue their quest for a third straight WVIAC tourney title on Friday when they take on Ohio County rival Wheeling Jesuit (19-9) in an 8:30 p.m. semifinal. The No. 4-seeded Cardinals outlasted No. 5 seed Charleston, 72-62, in their quarterfinal tilt.
The Mountain Cats (15-13) came into the game shooting better than 44 percent from behind the arc to lead the nation and nobody was more aware of that than a West Liberty coaching staff that had seen UPJ drain 11-of-16 3-point shots against the Hilltoppers in a 98-83 WLU won on Feb. 21.
"That was certainly something we talked about," Crutchfield said. "They're a great shooting basketball team but the Civic Center is kind of a tough place to shoot with all the space behind the baskets. Neither team had a great shooting night tonight but we made enough shots to win.
"The only thing that matters at tournament time is survive and advance. This was definitely a ‘survive and advance' type of game."
The Hilltoppers are no slouch themselves in the 3-point shooting department – ranking in the Top 10 nationally – and that turned out to be the key to victory on Thursday.
While West Liberty held the Mountain Cats to just 1-for-10 shooting from behind the arc, the Hilltoppers drained 12-of-27 3-pointers on the night for a whopping 33-point advantage from the perimeter.
The teams traded leads a couple of times in the early going but a Chris Morrow 3-pointer gave WLU an 8-6 lead at 15:38 of the opening half and UPJ spent the rest of the night on the comeback trail.
The Hilltoppers led by as many as 10 points in the first half but had to settle for a 37-32 halftime advantage after making just 4-of-17 shots from inside the 3-point arc over the first 20 minutes.
Pitt-Johnstown stayed within range for the first 10 minutes of the second half and trailed just 57-51 after Bill Luther hit UPJ's only 3-pointer of the game with 11:14 to play.
A pair of Dyer 3-pointers fueled an answering 11-1 West Liberty burst that produced the largest lead of the night, 68-52, with 8:48 remaining. The Hilltoppers maintained their defensive intensity the rest of the way and the margin never slipped below 11 points again.
Dyer, a sophomore making just his third start of the season in place of injured All-WVIAC junior Cedric Harris, came up big again with his second consecutive 20-point game while hitting a team-high 4 3-pointers and dishing out 4 assists. Alex Falk backed Dyer with 14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals while Bubby Goodwin added 14 off the bench – with 11 of them coming during the first half.
Jordan Miller's 19 points led Pitt-Johnstown while Nick Novak and Andrew Cressler finished with 16 and 15 points, respectively.
GAME NOTES
X No. 2 seed Fairmont State and No. 3 seed Alderson-Broaddus also posted double-digit quarterfinal wins on Thursday and will meet in Friday's other semifinal at 6:30 p.m.
X This will be the third meeting of the year between WJU and West Liberty with the Hilltoppers having won the first two by scores of 87-82 and 101-76
X The Hilltoppers have won 9 of their last 10 games against the Cardinals and 16 of the last 18
X Crutchfield has coached more games against Wheeling Jesuit than any other opponent and is 20-6 all-time against the Cardinals
X The WVIAC tournament championship game is scheduled for Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised live to a regional cable audience by Root Sports Pittsburgh