Manzay Sets Record in Big Comeback Win for WLU

Manzay Sets Record in Big Comeback Win for WLU

WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – Arriana Manzay shattered a 12-year-old school record and the West Liberty University women's basketball team roared back from a 19-point second-half deficit here Tuesday to stun Ohio Dominican, 78-67, in non-conference action inside the ASRC.

   Coach Kyle Cooper's Hilltoppers (7-3) opened the fourth quarter with a 16-1 burst and never took their foot off the gas in pulling away from the upset-minded Panthers (1-8), shooting nearly 82 percent from the floor over the final 10 minutes.

   Manzay, a 6-3 junior post from Lubbock, Texas, was an unstoppable force on the blocks for the Black and Gold all night. Utilizing a variety of post moves, the WLU veteran was a perfect 11-for-11 from the floor to lead all scorers with a career-high 26 points.

   The 11-for-11 shooting performance set a school record for the Hilltopper women's program. The previous standard of shooting perfection was a 10-for-10 night recorded by Evelyn Woods in an 80-66 West Liberty win against Pitt-Johnstown on Feb. 12, 2009.

   "As coaches, we want people to see what we see in our players," Cooper said, "and you saw that tonight from Arri. She was really, really good. In all honesty, we've been on her a little bit about consistency of effort and execution and she answered the challenge. You can't get much more consistent than 11-for-11."

   Although this Hilltopper story had a happy ending, the first two "chapters" were pretty dark as the hosts struggled to find their groove and Ohio Dominican took full advantage.

   The Panthers shot better than 60 percent from the floor in the opening two quarters and when Kennedy Schlabach capped the first half with her second 3-pointer of the night, ODU jogged off to the locker room with a 43-27 halftime lead.

   "It's safe to say we had an energetic discussion at the half," Cooper said. "The brand of basketball we play was nowhere to be found. The effort wasn't there. We took a ton of terrible shots. Believe me, they heard it all and to their credit, instead of feeling sorry for themselves, they responded big time! That's what has me so excited about what this group can become. In the second half, we got back to being us."

   Ohio Dominican tried to pick up where it had left off when play resumed, wrapping baskets by Bailey Williams and Gabby Stare around a Manzay post move to take their largest lead of the night, 48-29, as the third quarter clock ticked past 9 minutes.

   From that point on, however, it was all Hilltoppers as the hosts picked up the defensive pace and turned Manzay loose in the paint on the offensive end. West Liberty outscored the Panthers, 14-4, over the next three minutes to get the deficit under double-figures, 52-43, for the first time since the waning minutes of the first half. Manzay scored 11 of her 26 points during that span to fuel the run.

   The Black and Gold kept the pressure on for the rest of the quarter and found themselves well within striking distance, down just 60-54, heading into the final 10 minutes.

   Manzay opened the fourth quarter with a spinning left-handed hook shot and a 3-point bomb by Audrey Tingle cut the lead to 60-59 with 7:50 to play. Following another defensive stop, Corinne Thomas found a wide-open Karly McCullough behind the arc and McCullough hit nothing but net for a 62-60 West Liberty lead.

   The Hilltoppers were far from finished. The Black and Gold kept the pedal to the metal and never looked back. Manzay had the honor of finishing off the decisive 16-1 burst by cashing in a feed from Tingle to make it 70-61 West Liberty with 3:07 to go and the Hilltoppers coasted the rest of the way.

   "We still weren't perfect in the second half," Cooper said. "We blew some assignments and we had some unforced turnovers but we made them play the game at our pace. When you play the way we want to play – sharing the basketball, giving maximum effort at both ends of the court – you can overcome those things."

   Manzay went 4-for-5 from the foul line and grabbed 8 rebounds to go along with her 26 points. Tingle had another huge game with 19 points, a dozen rebounds and 7 assists and McCutcheon joined the double-figure scorers with 10 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists.

   Stare finished with 21 points to pace four double-figure scorers for Ohio Dominican.

   The Black and Gold don't have much time to celebrate as they return to non-conference action on Thursday night against Bluefield State. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. inside the ASRC.

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