No. 8 Hilltoppers Run Away From Notre Dame

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WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – The No. 8-ranked West Liberty University men’s basketball team picked up right where it had left off almost a year ago Thursday night, racing away to a 98-77 victory against Notre Dame (Ohio) in a mutual season opener at the ASRC.

    Coach Ben Howlett’s Hilltoppers opened up a 25-point lead less than seven minutes into the second half and never looked back in their first game since defeating Charleston in the championship game of the Mountain East Conference Tournament in Wheeling on March 8.

    “I’m just happy we were finally able to play,” Howlett said. “Tonight was almost 10 months to the day since these guys had played an actual basketball game so they were raring to go. It was pretty sloppy at first, as I anticipated, but there was about a 4-minute span early in the second half where we were getting after it to the point that it looked more like West Liberty basketball.

    “I’m not complaining. With all the challenges we’ve faced along with everybody else in this country over the last few months, I’ll take any win we can get.”

    The Falcons kept things interesting for the first 20 minutes, trailing just 46-36 at the half, but when West Liberty’s Bryce Butler opened the second half with a 3-point bomb it seemed to light the fuse.

    The Hilltoppers hit 11 of their first 14 shots from the floor in the second half, with several of them being transition layups off turnovers created by their full-court trapping defense. A Dalton Bolon 3-pointer and a Marlon Moore transition layup capped a 13-0 blitz and produced WLU’s biggest lead of the night at 66-41. The final 13:31 was just a formality.

    “I thought Malik McKinney and Zach Rasile were big factors in that second-half burst,” Howlett said. “They were getting steals and creating havoc, which is what we’re all about. I thought Zach played well in his first college game and so did Elijah Watson. Those guys are going to help us.”

    Every West Liberty player hit the scoring column. Bolon charted a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds while Pat Robinson III poured in 18 of his 20 points in the first half. Butler added 18 points and 7 rebounds while McKinney had 10 points off the bench and Moore donated 8 points and 8 rebounds.

    “We’ve been waiting for this for 10 months,” Robinson said. “We’ve been killing each other in practice for so long now, it felt great to go up against somebody else.”

    Jordan Burton tossed in a game-high 24 points for Notre Dame while Jordan Roland joined him in double figures with 17.

    The Hilltoppers will be back in action on Sunday when they travel to Philippi, W.Va. to take on MEC newcomer Alderson Broaddus. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. at Rex Pyles Arena.

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