The No. 10-ranked West Liberty University men’s basketball team forced 25 turnovers and dominated the glass at both ends of the court Monday night in rolling to a 119-82 victory against West Virginia State at the ASRC.
Coach Jim Crutchfield’s Hilltoppers (18-2, 13-2) had trouble finding the range early on and led just 23-20 after a short jumper the Yellowjackets’ (3-19, 3-11) Dominic Phillips.
But when Devin Hoehn hit a 3-pointer at the other end and Joe Lococo put back an offensive rebound – a recurring theme on the night – it seemed to knock the lid off the WLU basket.
West Liberty went on to scorch the nets for 36 points in the final 8 minutes of the opening half to take a commanding 59-37 lead into the break.
The Hilltoppers had shot just 41 percent (23-of-55) from the floor during the first 20 minutes but more than made up for that by forcing a dozen turnovers – while committing only 4 themselves – and grabbing a staggering 19 offensive rebounds.
“That was the key to the game,” Crutchfield said. “When you get a lot of offensive rebounds and don’t turn the ball over very much, you’re going to get a lot of shots. Even if you’re not shooting a really high percentage, if you get 90-some shots and they only get 60-some it’s going to be very hard for them to win.”
West Liberty was in control throughout the second half, leading by as many as 38 points down the stretch and blowing past the century mark for the 13th time this season and the third time in the last four games.
“We didn’t shoot the ball very well at the start,” Crutchfield said, “but I think the changes we made to keep fresher players on the court have been paying off for us. We were still running our stuff and getting quality shots plus we were forcing turnovers and creating good scoring chances in transition.
“We have a lot of guys who can shoot the ball so I was pretty confident they’d eventually start to fall. Once they did, we were able to open things up pretty quick.”
Eight different Hilltoppers made at least one 3-point field goal and six West Liberty players cracked double figures even though nobody saw more than 23 minutes of action with Crutchfield’s “platoon” substitutions.
Indiana Faithfull made run at a triple-double, tying his career-high with 12 assists while grabbing 8 rebounds and scoring 8 points. Seger Bonifant led WLU with 19 points, including 4 3-pointers, while Lococo and Hoehn finished with 16 points each. Mike Lamberti and Brandon Smith came off the bench with 12 and 10 points, respectively, while 5-8 freshman Brady Arnold added 8 points and tied Faithfull for team rebounding honors with 8 retrieves.
Markee Mazyck had a game-high 20 points in a losing cause for the Yellowjackets.
West Liberty returns to action on Thursday when the Black and Gold hosts Concord in a 7:30 p.m. test at the ASRC.