No. 9 Hilltoppers Crack Century Mark Again

No. 9 Hilltoppers Crack Century Mark Again

   WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – The No. 9-ranked West Liberty University men's basketball team shot a season-high 58 percent from the floor and drained 17 3-pointers here Sunday in handing Wilmington (Del.) a 108-74 loss in non-conference action at the ASRC.

   It was the fifth straight win for Coach Ben Howlett's Hilltoppers (10-1), who opened up a double-digit lead midway through the opening half and the Wildcats (4-9) never recovered.

   The West Liberty duo of Pat Robinson and Bryce Butler formed a lethal 1-2 punch during the opening 20 minutes. Robinson, a returning All-Region junior guard, poured in 19 of his game-high 28 points while Butler added 13 tallies before intermission to go along with 4 assists and a pair of steals.

   In racing away to a 54-34 halftime lead, the Hilltoppers shot a blistering 58 percent (19-of-33) from the floor, made more than half (8-for-15) of their 3-point attempts and went 8-for-9 from the charity stripe while posting a 22-9 edge off the glass.

   Very solid numbers but the column that showed 16 assists on those 19 made field goals is what leapt off the page at Howlett when he reviewed the stat sheet after the game.

   "I thought we really shared the basketball well today," Howlett said. "Sixteen assists on nineteen baskets in a half is a really high percentage and (a season-high) 32 on 39 for the game is excellent."

   The margin never dipped below 20 points after intermission as the Hilltoppers opened the second half with a 20-2 burst. Austin Webb wrapped a pair of 3-pointers around a Garrett Denbow bonus bomb to cap the surge, expanding the WLU lead to 74-36 with 14:13 still to play.

   Every West Liberty player in uniform saw at least 10 minutes of court time but no Hilltopper was on the court for more than 20 minutes as the Black and Gold finished off its pre-holiday slate with another impressive romp.

   Robinson's 28 points came in just 20 minutes while Butler needed only 19 minutes to collect 17 points, 5 assists, 3 steals and 3 rebounds. Denbow hit four 3-pointers to finish with a dozen points while Luke Powell and Zach Rasile rounded out the double-figure scorers with 11 and 10 points, respectively.

   West Liberty was 39-of-67 (58.2 percent) from the floor, 17-of-36 (47.2 percent) from the 3-point arc and 13-of-17 (77 percent) from the foul line. The Hilltoppers forced 23 turnovers and had 18 steals – 10 WLU players had at least one steal – and finished with a 35-25 advantage off the glass.

   Justin Thomas topped Wilmington with 21 points while Kam Cooper and Randy Rickards added 14 and 11 points, respectively.

   "Against the schedule we've played, we're very happy to be 10-1 at this point in the season and I thought today's game was a great way to head into the holidays," Howlett said. "Now we can take a few days to get our legs back and get ready for a very tough Mountain East Conference schedule."

   West Liberty will be idle through the holidays but returns to action on Jan. 3 with its final non-conference game of the season – a 4 p.m. tipoff against Bowie State (Md.) inside the ASRC – before resuming MEC play on Jan. 5 against Concord, also at home.

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