WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – The 8th-ranked West Liberty University men’s basketball team opened its 2022-23 campaign with a 91-68 win over visiting Shepherd inside the Academic, Sports, and Recreation Center this evening.

It took a little bit for the Hilltoppers to get going, as Shepherd jumped ahead 6-0 two minutes in holding West Liberty to 0-for-6 shooting. Alek West checked in the game and went right to the hoop for the ‘Toppers first score of the game and season.

After getting the lid off, West Liberty stormed ahead 11-10 for its first lead of the game just about three minutes later. Shepherd went up 22-19 at the midpoint in the first half, but back-to-back three pointers by Zach Rasile tied it up with the ladder starting a 12-0 run to give the Hilltoppers control of the contest. Bryce Butler put in a layup at the 7:35 mark to take the lead that West Liberty would hold the rest of the way.

An old fashioned three-point play followed by a long-range three by Butler in the final minute of the half gave him 21 points and West Liberty a 52-38 lead heading into the break.

The ‘Topper lead stayed in the low double-digit range for the first 12-plus minutes of the second half. The defense cranked it up at the end holding Shepherd scoreless for the final six minutes, as West Liberty ended the game on a 9-0 run. 

The Black and Gold forced 22 Ram turnovers and converted them into 22 Hilltopper points.

Butler ended the night with a double-double to start the season featuring a game-high 30 points and 10-rebounds.

Stephen Cannady drained five three-pointers for a 16-point first outing in the Black and Gold uniform. West added 11 points off the bench, which produced 27 points.

The Hilltoppers fired off 42 three-point attempts and connected on 13 for a 31% mark.

West Liberty is right back at it tomorrow night to close out the Atlantic Region Crossover against California (Pa.) at 8 pm inside the ASRC.