Wheeling, W. Va. – The last time that the Wheeling University Men's Basketball team had beaten West Liberty entering play Saturday was on February 24th, 2018. On Saturday night, the Cardinals (4-14, 2-10) broke the 10-game losing streak as they took down the Hilltoppers 114-107. It was the first time that the Cardinals have gone over the 100 point mark this season as the offense led the way.
Leading the way for the Cardinals was senior John Korte, who put together the best day of his collegiate career. He finished the night with 40 points and was just eight points away from breaking the program single-game scoring record. He shot an impressive 72% from the floor and helped will the Cardinals to what was their biggest victory of the season. The Cardinals had two other players finish with 20+ points in the game and another finish in double digits for the night. Brent Price finished behind Korte with 24 points on the night while Marcus Johnson picked up his second double double with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Ryan Reasbeck rounded out the double digit scorers, having a big day from three-point range. He finished with a career-high 17 points and a 5-8 mark from three-point range.
The Hilltopper's Steve Canaday began what would be a high scoring first half with a layup as the Hilltoppers scored nine of the first 13 points of the game to take a 9-4 lead. William Gabbert checked in the game and hit a pair of free throws to break the run and a Price layup would make it a 9-8 game with 16:17 left in the half. West Liberty would push the lead to three, but Wheeling came right back with three points of their own and things were tied 11-11 as the first media timeout passed. The Hilltoppers went on a 10-0 run to make it a 20-11 game and Wheeling was looking for a way to break through and get the ball back on their side. Gabbert would once again break the run with a three and the Cardinals would cut the lead to 28-25 with 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
A pair of free throws pushed the Hilltoppers lead to 30-25, but Reasbeck would come off the bench and begin his big day form three-point range. He hit the first of five three-pointers to cut the Topper lead to 30-28. Reasbeck was at it again on the next possession and gave the Cardinals their first lead of the game at 31-30. That would start a back and forth that would last the remainder of the first half. The lead would change hands three times over the next six minutes until West Liberty led 50-47 with 3:28 to play. Johnson hit a layup and Price added a three-pointer that tied things at 52-52 with 2:35 left in the half. Both defenses stepped up over the final 2:35 of the half, as neither team allowed a bucket. The Cardinals would get the ball back with four seconds, and Brent Price laid in the final bucket of the half to send Wheeling into the locker room with a 54-52 lead.
The Cardinals came out in the second half with as much fire as they had in the first half as John Korte got them started with a three-pointer. Price added a layup that brought the Wheeling lead to 59-52. That would be a lead that the Cardinals would not lose for the rest of the game as their offense continued to score throughout the half. The Hilltoppers made it a 59-54 game, but the Cardinals hit their biggest run of the game to that point, scoring eight of the next 11 points to push their lead to 67-57 as the first media timeout approached. After allowing a Hilltoppers layup just before the media timeout, the Cardinals were once again on a run, this time 9-0 and with 13:25 to play it was a 76-59 Cardinals lead. Johnson added a pair of free throws, Korte added a shot, and Price added a three as the Cardinals went over the 80 point mark before the 10 minute media timeout.
As time ticked down, the Cardinals offense continued to score as they added 10 more points over the next two minutes of play to lead 90-76. However, the Hilltoppers weren't done as they battled back and would make it a nine-point game at 99-90 with 3:50 to play. Johnson would put the Cardinals over the 100-point mark with a three-pointer and a Korte layup pushed the Cardinals lead back to double digits at 104-94. Over the final 1:36 of the game, the Cardinals would be forced to seal the deal from the free throw line and they would do just that. Korte got eight free throw opportunities during the stretch and went 6-8 while Johnson added two free throws of his own. In the end, Wheeling sealed the 114-107 victory as they took down a nationally ranked Hilltopper team and moved to 2-10 in MEC play.