17 Straight 20-Win Seasons for No. 5 West Liberty
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The No. 5-ranked West Liberty men's basketball team clinched its 17th straight 20-win season in style here Saturday, blistering the nets at a 64 percent clip in a convincing 96-82 victory at Charleston.
Not only did Coach Ben Howlett's Hilltoppers (20-2, 14-2) hit 32-of-50 shots from the floor on the afternoon, WLU drained just under 70 percent (11-of-16) from the 3-point arc in completing a season sweep of the Golden Eagles (16-5, 12-4).
The game didn't finish the way it started as the first 10 minutes belonged to Charleston. The Golden Eagles opened up a 29-17 lead on a Kobey Lamm 3-pointer as the first half clock ticked under 10 minutes but the Hilltoppers slowly but surely began to chip away at the lead.
West Liberty took its first lead since the opening minutes, 44-43, on a Bryce Butler 3-pointer with 1:22 left in the half. Jeremiah Keene went 1-for-2 from the foul line to tie it for UC, 44-44, but Zach Rasile's fadeaway 3-pointer at the buzzer sent the Black and Gold trotting off with a 47-44 halftime lead.
The Hilltoppers picked up where they left off when play resumed and maintained control the rest of the way. After the lead hit double-figures for the first time – 63-52 on a Christian Montague 3-point play at 13:24 – the hosts never got the margin under eight points again.
Despite having two starters foul out with over 9 minutes to go, WLU led by as many as 18 points down the stretch before coasting across the finish line with another 20-win season in its pocket.
The Hilltoppers have now won 20 or more games in every full season since the streak began during the 2004-05 season. The Black and Gold went 18-5 during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season, winning the Atlantic Region championship and earning an NCAA Division II Elite Eight berth.
Junior guard Pat Robinson III once again checked off all the boxes on his stat sheet. The silky-smooth southpaw tossed in a game-high 27 points - highlighted by a 12-of-14 showing from the foul line - to go along with 5 rebounds, 6 assists and a pair of steals.
Butler backed Robinson with a highly-efficient 22 points, cashing in 9-of-10 shots from the floor, while Montague went 4-for-4 from the 3-point arc for a season-high 17 points. Rasile rounded out the double-figure scorers, draining 3-of-4 shots from deep and finishing with 11 points.
In an incredibly physical contest, the teams combined for a staggering 53 personal fouls and 69 free throws. West Liberty connected on 21-of-28 free throws while Charleston was able to keep the final margin respectable by going 31-of-41 from the charity stripe.
Keith Williams led four double-figure scorers for the Golden Eagles with 14 points.
The Hilltoppers return to the friendly confines of the ASRC on Wednesday for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff against Glenville State.