11 Straight Wins for Hot-Shooting Hilltopper Men

WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – The No. 2-ranked West Liberty men's basketball team shot nearly 60 percent from the floor here Wednesday night in a 105-88 blowout of Notre Dame (Ohio) inside the ASRC.

   It was the 11th straight win and 21st in the last 22 games for Coach Ben Howlett's sizzling Hilltoppers (25-2, 19-2) as they avenged a first-semester loss to the visiting Falcons (15-12, 12-9) in impressive fashion.

   It was Senior Night for the Hilltoppers and West Liberty's three seniors – Marlon Moore Jr., Viktor Kovacevic and Will Yoakum – all made their presence felt in their final regular-season appearance on the ASRC boards.

   The Hilltoppers went ahead to stay before the game was three minutes old but Notre Dame - which had eked out an 82-81 upset win on their South Euclid, Ohio floor just before Thanksgiving - did just enough to stay within range for the first 20 minutes.

   A strong finish sent West Liberty into the halftime break with a 53-41 lead and Notre Dame never got the deficit into single digits again.

   The Hilltoppers – who scorched the nets at a 65 percent clip in the second half – spent the rest of the game building up the margin. The lead eventually hit 27 points, 103-76, on a Christian Montague 3-pointer with 3 1/2 minutes to go but Notre Dame scored 12 of the game's final 14 points to make the final score a bit more respectable.

   Reigning Mountain East Conference Player of the Week Bryce Butler – fresh off a career-high 30-point game in Saturday's win against No. 17 Fairmont State – had another huge game on Wednesday. The 6-5 sophomore poured in a game-high 28 points on 12-of-14 shooting from the floor while dishing out 4 assists, grabbing 4 rebounds and blocking a pair of shots in 28 minutes of action.

   Butler wasn't lacking for support from his teammates on the offensive end. Pat Robinson III added 13 points and 3 steals while Yoakum, still working his way back from injury, added a season-high 13 points in a season-high 19 minutes of playing time.

   His fellow seniors, Moore and Kovacevic, were also major contributors. Moore just missed a double-double with 10 points and 8 rebounds while Kovacevic checked off a number of boxes with 9 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Montague also had 9 points and 6 assists while Zach Rasile joined the double-figure scorers with 10 points on the night.

   Michael Sampson and Daylin Lee led the Falcons with 18 points each. Jaedon Willis and Tylan Crawford added 16 apiece in a losing cause.

   West Liberty, which has already clinched its fifth straight MEC championship and the No. 1 seed in next week's MEC Tournament, closes out the regular season on the road Saturday against Wheeling. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. at the McDonough Center.

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