Ritz, Cardinals power past West Liberty, 82-75

Sports

WHEELING, W.VA (WHEELING UNIVERSITY). – Led by a 24-point, 26-rebound performance by sophomore forward Lilly Ritz (Cambridge, Ohio/Cambridge), the Wheeling University women’s basketball team earned an 82-75 win over rival-West Liberty Sunday afternoon inside the McDonough Center.

The win improves the Cardinals to 5-6 in the Mountain East Conference (MEC) standings, 6-11 overall. Meanwhile, the Hilltoppers fall to 3-9 in league play, 7-11 overall this season.

Ritz dominated the glass with a career-high 26 rebounds (14 offensive). She was 10-of-17 (59 percent) from the field and chipped in a trio of assists to lead Wheeling. Senior guard Khira Burton (Cincinnati, Ohio/Walnut Hills) posted 18 points, including 9-of-10 from the free-throw line, while classmate Taliah Cashwell (South Charleston, W.Va./South Charleston) chipped in 12 points.

The first eight minutes were played evenly. The Cardinals managed to roll off six-straight points in the final two minutes of the first quarter with the score tied to take a 24-18 edge into the first intermission.

Wheeling maintained the lead in the second stanza and established its first double-digit advantage of the afternoon when freshman guard Emily Holzopfel (Rayland, Ohio/Buckeye Local) connected on a trey and a bucket in the paint to make the score 34-22 with 4:36 to play until halftime. The Cardinals pushed the lead all the way to 13 at halftime when a floater in the key by freshman guard Iyauna Bonner (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) dropped in the closing seconds of the first half to make the score 44-31.

Wheeling appeared to be on its way when a Ritz layup with 2:56 left in the third quarter pushed the lead all the way to 18, 62-46. West Liberty managed to cut into the deficit with a pair of three pointers and a basket at the horn to make the score 65-54 heading into the fourth quarter.

A trio of threes by the Hilltoppers in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter had Wheeling clinging to a 69-65 advantage. Ritz went back to work in the post and converted the next three baskets for the Cardinals to rebuild the lead back to seven, 72-65, with 5:50 to play in the game.

West Liberty managed to draw within one possession, 78-75, in the final minute of the game and got a defensive stop with 30 seconds remaining on the clock. The Hilltoppers got an open look from beyond-the-arc to tie the game, but the ball rimmed out and Wheeling converted all four of its free throws on the other end to close out the game and secure the victory.

Ritz dominated West Liberty near the basket and nearly out-rebounded the Hilltoppers on her own. Wheeling held a 51-to-30 advantage on the glass. The Cardinals also out-scored West Liberty 40-to-22 in the paint.

Wheeling finished the game shooting 28-of-64 (44 percent), while West Liberty posted a 22-of-64 (34 percent) showing. The Cardinals are 6-2 this season when shooting over 42 percent from the field in a game.

West Liberty’s Taylor Johnson finished with 25 points, while Morgan Brunner totaled 24 in the loss.

The win snapped a three-game losing streak to the Hilltoppers.

The Cardinals will return to the McDonough Center floor on Wednesday, January 29 when they host West Virginia Wesleyan in a MEC contest at 5:30 p.m.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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