Liz Flowers scored her 2,000th career point and the No. 17-ranked West Liberty University women never trailed here Thursday night in blasting UVA-Wise, 73-51, in a Mountain East Conference Tournament quarterfinal at the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum.
Coach Lynn Ullom’s Lady Hilltoppers (26-3), the regular season champions and defending tournament champs, took care of business early in beating the No. 9-seeded Cavaliers (13-15) for the third time this season.
Flowers poured in 10 of her game-high 26 points in the first quarter as West Liberty used a 14-2 run to open up a double-digit lead midway through the period before taking a 26-13 lead into the second quarter.
The margin never dropped below double-figures the rest of the way as the Hilltoppers overcame a poor shooting night from the perimeter by combining a stifling defensive effort with some efficient offensive work inside the 3-point arc.
“I thought we played really well on the defensive end tonight,” said Ullom, who was battling flu-like symptoms throughout the day. “We’re normally a pretty good shooting team but even though we didn’t shoot the ball well from deep – I think we were 5-of-25 on 3-point shots – we still found a way to get it done.”
The West Liberty defense forced UVA-Wise into 21 turnovers while holding the Virginia squad to a dismal 31 percent (18-of-57) from the floor. The Hilltoppers held a 37-22 lead at the break, pushed it to 54-37 after three quarters and led by as many as 25 points coming down the stretch.
Flowers’ 26 points made her only the third member of West Liberty’s 2,000-Point Club with 2,001 points but that wasn’t all for the senior guard. The 3-time All-MEC first-teamer also stuffed the stat sheet with 6 rebounds and 4 assists while draining three of the Hilltoppers’ five 3-point field goals.
Kiki Simpson, the MEC Player of the Year, dominated in the paint with 17 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks and 3 steals while Kailee Howe – West Liberty’s third first-team All-MEC standout – added 16 points, 8 assists and 5 steals.
“I thought Liz was special tonight,” Ullom said, “but this was a good team win. Kiki has just been putting up huge numbers all season and is a big part of our defense as a rim protector in the paint while Kailee has that ability to score or set up other people to score that just makes everyone better.”
Blair Harding was the only double-figure scorer for UVA-Wise with 16 points.
The top-seeded Hilltoppers advance to Saturday’s noon semifinal against No. 5 seed Fairmont State (20-10). The Falcons handed No. 4 seed Glenville State a 77-68 setback in Thursday’s late quarterfinal.
X Simpson became West Liberty’s all-time leader in blocked shots with 253 rejections, surpassing Jaana Kotova’s career total of 251
X Flowers’ 2,001 career points trails only WLU Hall of Famer Melissa Hammond (2,150) and former Hilltopper All-American Tori Hanson (2,300) on the school’s scoring list
X The Hilltoppers improved to 9-0 all-time against UVA-Wise
X Ullom has compiled a 53-18 record in league tournament games during his 25-year career. He’s 20-4 in quarterfinal contests
X The West Liberty women are 55-3 over the past four seasons – and now 19-1 this year – when holding their opponents below 70 points