The No. 1-ranked West Liberty University men’s basketball closed out the inaugural Charles and Lavoo Crutchfield Classic in impressive fashion Sunday afternoon, breezing to a 101-89 victory against Fayetteville State (N.C.) before a large crowd at the ASRC.
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Coach Jim Crutchfield’s Hilltoppers (2-0) – who have won eight of the last nine national scoring titles – built a 19-point halftime lead and never trailed in topping the century mark for the second time in less than 24 hours.
“This was a good opening weekend,” said Crutchfield, whose team was coming off a 105-61 blowout of St. Augustine’s (N.C.) on Saturday night. “We’re working a lot of new faces into the rotation so we’re still very much a work in progress but for the most part, I thought we played pretty solid basketball the past two days.”
After coughing up 19 first-half turnovers to dig themselves into a 54-35 halftime hole, the Broncos (1-1) cleaned up their act when play resumed and put together an extended run.
Devin Thompson drained a trio of 3-pointers in a 90-second span to fuel a Fayetteville State surge that trimmed what had grown into a 21-point West Liberty lead into single digits.
A driving layup by Carl McCray pulled the Broncos within 7 points, 72-65, with 11 minutes still to play but the Hilltoppers didn’t blink as Indiana Faithfull restored the double-digit lead, 75-65, with a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer in transition.
Fayetteville’s Joshua Dawson answered with a short jumper, making it 75-67 as the clock ticked past the 10-minute mark but that was when West Liberty slammed the door.
Devin Hoehn knocked down a 3-pointer from the left wing and a sizzling hot Seger Bonifant followed with back-to-back treys for an 84-67 WLU lead with 8:14 remaining.
Bonifant, who had set career-highs of 31 points and 8 3-point field goals in Saturday’s win against St. Augustine’s, enjoyed his second straight game with 8 bonus bombs and set a new career high with 32 points.
“Seger’s an outstanding shooter and we’ve been able to get him some great looks this weekend,” Crutchfield said. “We have so many guys who can shoot, it’s hard for teams to account for everybody.”
The Broncos tried to beat the Hilltoppers back downcourt after that 3-point salvo but Faithfull stripped the ball away near the baseline and whipped it over to Bonifant, who found Hoehn streaking across midcourt. Hoehn threaded the needle to a hustling C.J. Hester for a layup and an 86-67 lead with 7:56 remaining.
“C.J. never stops working,” Crutchfield said. “That’s how a 6-4 kid puts himself on pace to be the school’s all-time leading rebounder and probably the first West Liberty guy ever with 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. He plays to his maximum every night and just plain outworks people.
Fayetteville coach Alphonza Kee tried to slow things down with a timeout but the game was gone. West Liberty led by as many as 24 points down the stretch and coasted to the finish line.
Hester, a Preseason All-American, finished with 24 points, a career-high 6 assists and 5 rebounds while Mike Lamberti added 14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals. Hoehn finished with 9 points and matched his career high of 7 assists for the second straight game.
Dawson and Thompson paced five double-figure scorers for the Broncos with 16 and 14 points, respectively.
West Liberty returns to the ASRC on Thursday night to host former West Virginia Conference rival Salem International in what figures to be a shootout. The Tigers, now members of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference, ranked No. 3 nationally in scoring last year (91.5 ppg.) and led the nation with 12.1 steals per game.
Cheyney (PA) 69, St. Augustine’s (NC) 63
In Sunday’s opener, the Wolves (1-1) opened up a double-digit lead early in the second half and held off several late surges by the Falcons (0-2) to earn a split on the weekend. Jerrod Johnson had 16 points and 8 assists to pace four double-figure scorers for the winners. St. Augustine’s got a game-high 20 points from Raheem Jolliffe while Damarian Henderson added 17.