The No. 8-ranked West Liberty University men’s basketball team opened up a two-game lead in the Mountain East Conference chase here night by breezing to a 98-87 win at Shepherd’s Butcher Center.
Coach Jim Crutchfield’s Hilltoppers (21-2, 16-2) shot better than 60 percent from the floor in completing the season sweep of the Rams (13-11, 8-10), opening up a 49-39 halftime lead and leading by as many as 20 points down the stretch.
It was West Liberty’s 17th consecutive win in the series, following up a 102-83 rout of Shepherd at the ASRC on .
The Hilltoppers’ high-pressure defense came up big again, producing 14 steals – 11 in the first half alone – and forcing a total of 20 turnovers from the homestanding Rams.
Seger Bonifant led all scorers with 20 points for the Hilltoppers while Indiana Faithfull added 17, Devin Hoehn chipped in with 15 and Joe Lococo rounded out the double-figure scorers with 13 points.
Naim Muhammad topped five double-figure scorers for Shepherd with 15 points.
A pair of upsets elsewhere in the MEC helped West Liberty move one step closer to its sixth consecutive conference championship.
A short-handed Glenville State squad dropped to 17-7 overall and 14-4 in the MEC after a shocking 75-42 road loss to an Urbana team that came into the game with just a 5-18 record.
The Pioneers held onto second place in the conference standings, however, when Fairmont State (17-7, 13-5) was hammered at home by Wheeling Jesuit, 88-70.
With just four games remaining in the MEC regular season, the Hilltoppers can clinch at least a share of the championship at home with a win against Fairmont State. Tipoff is set for at the ASRC.