Seger Bonifant drained an ASRC-record 10 3-point field goals and scored a career-high 34 points Thursday night as unbeaten and No. 1-ranked West Liberty routed visiting Shepherd, 102-83.
It was the 16th consecutive win for Coach Jim Crutchfield’s Hilltoppers (12-0, 7-0) against the Rams (9-4, 6-3) and the 10th straight time WLU had hit the century mark against the Eastern Panhandle squad.
With Bonifant – the nation’s leading scorer at 27.4 ppg. – lobbing in 6 of his 3-pointers before intermission, West Liberty built a double-figure lead less than 10 minutes into the game and never let the margin drop below 10 points the rest of the night.
“I see Seger shoot every day so it doesn’t surprise me when he shoots the ball like that,” Crutchfield said with a smile. “It was good to come back home after that long road trip and pick up a solid win against one of the better teams in our conference.”
Shepherd was able to keep things close at the start and actually held a 10-7 lead when Crutchfield made his first substitutions around the 16-minute mark.
Bonifant hit a short jumper and followed that up with a quick 3-pointer to put WLU ahead to stay, 12-10, at 15:30 of the opening half.
That ignited a 14-0 West Liberty run over the next 3 minutes and when Zak Kirkbride capped the surge with a 3-pointer from deep in the right corner, the Hilltoppers had opened up a 21-10 lead with just under 13 minutes showing on the first half clock and the Rams never really recovered.
West Liberty led by as many as 25 points in the first half before Shepherd began chipping away at the margin. The visitors closed to 51-40 at the half but the Black and Gold scored 9 of the first 12 points in the second half and never looked back.
“The past few games we’ve been getting a big lift from the guys on the bench when we make our first rotation,” Crutchfield said. “That happened again today with that early run and that’s really been a boost for us.”
Bonifant’s 34 points led the way but the rest of the Hilltopper scoring parade was pretty well balanced.
Devin Hoehn finished with 14 points and a game-high 7 assists while Zac Grossenbacher just missed a double-double, coming off the bench with 10 points and 8 rebounds. C.J. Hester was held to 6 points but grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds to move within 6 of 1,000 for his career.
Steffen Davis and Skyler Roman led the Rams with 18 and 16 points, respectively.
The Hilltoppers host West Virginia Wesleyan on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. at the ASRC.