Hot-Shooting Hilltoppers Improve to 4-0
WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – The unbeaten and No. 14-ranked West Liberty University men's basketball team hit 15 of its first 18 shots from the floor and opened up a 30-point lead in the first half here Saturday in coasting to a 100-70 victory against Alderson Broaddus inside the ASRC.
None of Coach Ben Howlett's starters saw more than 19 minutes of action as the high-powered Hilltoppers (4-0, 1-0) had the visiting Battlers (2-2, 0-1) on their heels from the opening tap.
"Coming off three big wins to start the season, I was a little concerned about our intensity level," Howlett said. "I didn't think our last two days of practice were very good. I didn't think shoot-around was good today but I thought we came out and played very well for the first 30 minutes."
West Liberty sprinted out to a 15-6 lead in the first four minutes and the rout was on as the Black and Gold seemingly couldn't miss.
The margin reached 20 points, 32-12, for the first time on a Malik McKinney drive just 9 minutes after the opening tap. Zach Rasile's 3-point bomb at the 9:42 mark restored the 20-point margin, 37-17, and ended WLU's incredible 15-for-18 shooting start but the Black and Gold were far from finished.
The lead hit 30 points, 53-23, on a Garrett Denbow 3-pointer as the first half clock ticked under 3 minutes before West Liberty "settled" for a 59-33 advantage at intermission.
Howlett substituted freely throughout the second half but the lead continued to grow, finally reaching 43 points, 88-45, on an Elijah Watson layup with just under 10 minutes remaining and the Hilltoppers coasted the rest of the way.
Bryce Butler led the West Liberty charge, scoring 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting from the floor, grabbing 8 rebounds and blocking a couple of shots in just 15 minutes of action.
"Like Coach said, coming off three big wins to start the season, it was definitely a challenge for us to not drop our intensity today but I thought we fought through that," Butler said. "Today was a great team win. Everybody contributed and that's when we're at our best."
Pat Robinson III backed Butler with 16 points while Marlon Moore added 13 points and cleared 6 boards. Malik McKinney notched his fourth double-figure scoring game in as many starts with a dozen lightings.
West Liberty held the Battlers to just 38 percent shooting from the floor while forcing 21 turnovers and coming up with 17 steals. Despite taking their foot off the gas over the final 10 minutes, 11 of the 12 players who dressed for WLU finished with at least one steal, one assist and one field goal.
Zach Simpkins and Coryon Rice led Alderson Broaddus in scoring with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
"It did get a little sloppy at the end today," Howlett said, "but we'll take it, we'll learn from it and we'll get better from it. Hopefully, we can go back on the road Tuesday and get a win at Notre Dame."
West Liberty returns to action on Tuesday when the Black and Gold travels to South Euclid, Ohio for a 7:30 p.m. game against Notre Dame.