FROSTBURG, Md. - The No. 11/10 ranked West Liberty University men's basketball team got in front early and never looked back rolling to a 106-90 victory at Frostburg State Wednesday night.
The Bobcats (8-17, 4-15) made every effort to comeback, but the Hilltoppers (22-3, 17-2) were able to fend off the attempts keeping their lead to six-plus for the entire second half.
Tonight's win was Head Coach Ben Howlett's 150th career win at the helm of the Hilltoppers improving his record to 150-24. Howlett is the winningest active head men's basketball coach across all NCAA divisions (minimum five seasons) with an .862 winning percentage.
All 11 Hilltoppers that saw action scored and played at least nine minutes. Reigning MEC Player of the Week Bryce Butler led the way with 22 points on 8-for-13 shooting along with three steals and a career-best three blocks.
Steve Cannady and Finley Woodward each had 14 points, while Malik McKinney added 13 rounding out four 'Toppers in double figures. Cannady drained a team-leading three triples, while Woodward's was an early career-best on 7-for-9 shooting.
Ben Sarson had a career-most four steals leading the defense that caused havoc on the Bobcats. West Liberty forced 26 Frostburg State turnovers and turned them into 36 points, while only surrendering eight turnovers for a +18-turnover margin. It was the 12th time this season WLU has forced 20-plus turnovers by its opponent.
Sarson finished with a full stat line of seven points, seven rebounds, four assists, and four steals. The rebounds were a team-high, while four assists tied Montague and McKinney for the team lead. 10 Hilltoppers recorded assists, as they totaled 24 on 40 made baskets.
The Black and Gold got up double-digits just over seven minutes into the game already forcing seven turnovers and built the lead to 20-points (34-14) at the 7:52 mark in the first half. The sides went back-and-forth over that final 7:52 of the opening frame and a late three pointer by the Bobcats sent the game to the break with WLU ahead 56-39.
West Liberty was held without a field goal for nearly the first five minutes of the second half, as Frostburg State went on a 10-0 run to get back within single digits. Once the Hilltoppers found the bottom of the net, they cruised to victory keeping at least a two-possession lead the entire second half. An 8-0 spurt from 7:31-6:12 helped get the lead back to double-digits and asserted the Black and Gold's firm control on the contest after Frostburg State got within six.
West Liberty is back on its home hardwood Saturday against Fairmont State. Tip off is scheduled for 4 pm inside the ASRC.