No. 4 Hilltoppers Hit Century Mark Again
7th Consecutive Win and 17th in Last 18 Games for MEC Pacesetters
WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – The No. 4-ranked West Liberty men's basketball team dominated the second half here Wednesday night in racing away to a 102-70 victory against Glenville State inside the ASRC.
Coach Ben Howlett's Hilltoppers (21-2, 15-2) took command with a 12-2 burst in the first 2 1/2 minutes of the second half and never took their foot off the gas in breezing to their 7th straight win and 17th in the last 18 games.
The Pioneers (8-12, 5-11), who entered the game with the nation's No. 4 scoring offense, were held nearly 22 points below their scoring average and never got closer than 20 points in the final 10 minutes.
Now in his fifth season at the helm of his alma mater, Howlett saw his coaching record improve to an impressive 100 games over .500 (120-20, .857) in just his 140th game as a head coach.
Howlett may have been pleased with that but he was decidedly less sanguine about his team's first half performance as the Black and Gold coasted into the locker room with just a 43-36 advantage.
"Bad first half, good second half," Howlett said in a capsule summary. "I thought we were a little lackadaisical in the first half, not as focused as we needed to be. Among other things, we talked about only having two offensive rebounds in the whole first half. The second half was a lot better."
Malik McKinney drained a 3-pointer when play resumed and suddenly everything clicked into place. Bryce Butler added a pair of hoops, one coming off an offensive rebound. A Pat Robinson steal led to a Ben Sarson 3-pointer and that 7-point halftime lead had ballooned to 55-38 with 17:32 still showing on the second half clock.
The Pioneers never threatened again.
"I thought we came out playing West Liberty basketball in the second half," Howlett said. "We were flying around, causing turnovers, making the extra pass and crashing the boards. We had two offensive rebounds at halftime and finished with 13. We were much better in the second half."
With the game getting out of hand so quickly, Howlett was able to spread plenty of playing time across the roster. No Hilltopper spent more than 24 minutes on the court but 12 of the 13 WLU players who dressed scored at least two points.
Robinson finished with a game-high 20 points with Butler adding 16 points and Viktor Kovacevic contributing 13 more. Marlon Moore Jr. was a force on the blocks, coming off the bench with a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds in just 17 minutes of action. McKinney finished with 9 points and a game-high 4 assists as West Liberty shot nearly 58 percent (41-of-71) from the floor.
Glenville got 18 points and 10 rebounds from Adrian Scarborough with John Williams and Dajon Congleton adding 15 and 12 points, respectively.
The Hilltoppers also got some help in the Mountain East Conference race as Notre Dame (Ohio) shocked No. 10-ranked Fairmont State, 78-73, Wednesday night. With the FSU loss, West Liberty now holds a 2-game lead over the rest of the MEC with only five games remaining on the league schedule.
The Black and Gold hit the road on Saturday for a 4 p.m. game at Concord.