The No. 10-ranked West Liberty University men’s basketball team jumped out to an early double-digit lead and was never challenged night in romping to a 99-71 victory against Concord in a key Mountain East Conference test at the ASRC.
Coach Jim Crutchfield’s Hilltoppers (19-2, 14-2) maintained their one-game lead in the MEC with the repeat win against the fast-rising Mountain Lions (14-7, 10-6), who had taken West Liberty to overtime in the season’s first meeting last month only to see WLU pull out a 113-107 win in Athens.
Crutchfield’s 5-man unit substitution strategy continued to pay dividends as the Hilltoppers’ full-court pressure helped produce 20 Concord turnovers while helping hold the visitors to just 35 percent (25-of-70) shooting from the floor.
“All we’re trying to do with our 5-man substitutions is keep a fresh group of players out there to maintain a high level of intensity on the floor,” Crutchfield said. “I think we were able to push the pace fast enough to make them a little uncomfortable shooting the ball. Also, 16 of those turnovers were live-ball steals and we were able to convert a lot of those into easy scores.”
The Mountain Lions took an early 6-2 lead but Devin Hoehn drained the Hilltoppers’ first 3-pointer of the night to turn the tide.
A pair of Zac Grossenbacher free throws capped what blossomed into an 18-3 West Liberty run, putting the hosts in control, 20-9, with still showing on the first-half clock.
“I think tonight our second unit was the one that really broke things open,” Crutchfield said. “They really energized the game when they hit the court.”
The Hilltoppers never looked back, coasting into halftime with a 50-29 lead and pushing the margin as high as 33 points midway through the second half.
Grossenbacher turned in his second double-double of the season with 19 points and 10 rebounds in just 17 minutes of action while Seger Bonifant added 16 points. They were West Liberty’s only double-figure scorers on the night but the well-balanced Black and Gold attack had eight players finish with 8 or more points.
“This was a total team win,” Crutchfield said. “We had a lot of guys contributing on both ends of the floor and that’s what we really like to see.
“It wasn’t a perfect performance by any means. We gave up 21 offensive rebounds and only went 10-for-21 from the foul line so we have some things to work on. Even so, we still were able to beat a really good basketball team by 28 points so we’re obviously doing some other things pretty well.”
Concord got 17 and 15 points, respectively, from Aaron Miller and Rob Reed while Terry Hopewell checked in with 11 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
The Hilltoppers return to action afternoon when they host UVA-Wise in a game at the ASRC.