Hilltoppers Lead Wire-to-Wire in 92-41 Romp

WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – The West Liberty University women's basketball team opened the game with a 13-2 burst and never took their foot off the gas Thursday night in racing away to a 92-41 blowout of Bluefield State in non-conference action inside the ASRC.

   Coach Kyle Cooper's Hilltoppers (8-3) held the Big Blues (0-8) to just 11 first-half points and poured in 53 points over the final two quarters to win going away.

   "We handled our business today," Cooper said. "We challenged our team to come out really aggressive on defense to keep them from getting into their offense and they really rose to the challenge.

   "That got us into our transition and created a lot of early offense right from the start, which is what we're looking to go."

   This one was never in doubt. West Liberty carried an 18-4 lead into the second quarter and when the halftime horn sounded, the Hilltoppers were sitting on 39-11 advantage and Bluefield State had missed 20 of its 24 shots from the floor.

   Cooper began substituting frequently early on but the margin continued to grow. It reached 40 points, 66-26, just before the end of the third quarter and got to 50 points, 87-37, with just under 4 minutes remaining.

   "I thought we still did a good job of sharing the basketball and playing for each other in the second half," Cooper said. "We had our usual balanced scoring and 23 assists on 36 made baskets is a pretty good ratio."

   Freshman guard Bailee Smith spent her evening stuffing the stat sheet with a game-high 20 points to go along with 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals. Corinne Thomas added 19 points, Arriana Manzay had 17 points – on 8-of-10 shooting – and 7 rebounds while Karly McCutcheon drained four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points.

   Senior guard Audrey Tingle, who picked up her 800th career rebound on Wednesday, played just 22 minutes but checked off a lot of boxes with 6 points, 7 assists and 8 rebounds.

   "We're in a tough part of the schedule where we play four games in eight days," Cooper said. "With a really good Malone team coming in here on Saturday, we took advantage of the opportunity to give Audrey a little rest tonight. Nobody plays harder than she does."

   Alexus Tucker and Azariah Binford led the way for the visitors with 10 and 9 points, respectively.

   As Cooper noted, West Liberty closes out its non-conference schedule at home on Saturday against a 7-2 Malone (Ohio) team. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. inside the ASRC.

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