Devin Hoehn poured in a career-high 36 points and No. 1-ranked West Liberty maintained a double-digit lead throughout the second half here Saturday as the Hilltoppers coasted past Charleston, 82-70, at the ASRC.
Charleston (1-2, 0-1), coming off a 21-win season and an NCAA Tournament bid, ran the shot clock down into single digits on a number of early possessions in an attempt to control the tempo but West Liberty (4-0, 1-0) made that strategy backfire by stringing together several defensive stops.
The Hilltoppers’ Seger Bonifant attracted most of UC’s defensive attention as he entered the game averaging better than 29 points a night but that merely opened things up for Hoehn, who had led WLU in 3-point field goals as a freshman last season.
Hoehn scored 14 of West Liberty’s first 16 points as the hosts opened up a 16-6 lead less than 8 minutes after the opening tip.
Charleston’s Jevonte Hughes cut the margin to 19-10 with a slashing drive to the hoop as the clock ticked under the 11-minute mark but Hoehn hit two free throws and followed up with a rainbow 3-pointer for a 24-10 Hilltopper lead with 10:03 on the first half clock.
Hoehn sent WLU into the locker room with a 41-24 halftime lead with a driving layup for his 27th point, wiping out his previous career-high of 26 points with a half of basketball still to play.
The Hilltoppers calmly ran the clock down into single digits before Brandon Smith found Bonifant alone in the corner for a dagger of a 3-pointer with 1:26 on the clock.
Hoehn was 6-for-8 from the 3-point arc to account for half of his 36 points. The increasingly-versatile Bonifant worked the paint for several of his 18 points while collecting 8 rebounds and handing out 4 assists – both team-highs.
The Hilltoppers take their No. 1 ranking on the road for the first time Monday with a 7:30 p.m. game at West Virginia State.