WEST LIBERTY - West Virginia Wesleyan coach Pat Beilein had a puzzled look on his face following Tuesday night's game against West Liberty before a standing room only crowd at the ASRC. He wanted to know how his Bobcats were the ones that wore down, when it was the Hilltoppers who were pressing the entire game.
Alex Falk led five players in double figures with 20 points as No. 1 West Liberty used a 16-0 second-half run as the catalyst for handing the Bobcats a 94-56 defeat.
''They make you play at a pace you can't prepare for,'' said Beilein, a former West Virginia University star. ''What I mean by that, is your scout team really doesn't know the angles of the press, especially when you're not a pressing team.
West Liberty’s Bubby Goodwin looks to go to the basket as teammate Shawn Dyer sets a pick Tuesday night.
''It is a different experience, especially on the road.''
West Liberty (4-0 overall, 1-0 West Virginia Conference) struggled with a stagnant offense during the first 20 minutes, shot 37 percent and led by just 13 at the half, 36-23. The Bobcats (1-1, 0-1) were able to keep it close, thanks in large part to a late 6-0 run.
''Way too much dribbling and not enough ball reversals,'' WLU coach Jim Crutchfield said of the first-half issues. ''Not enough passing and that was discussed at halftime.
''We put the ball on the floor basically for dribble penetration going to the basket, but we were doing a lot of dribbling for no reason. That's not part of our offense.''
The Hilltoppers changed that in the second half. Wheeling Park redshirt freshman Bubby Goodwin came off the bench and scored 10 of his career-high 14 points, with the final bucket, a pretty reverse in traffic, giving West Liberty a 55-37 lead.
''This is his fourth game and he's just now feeling more comfortable,'' Crutchfield said. ''Every game that we've played I think he has looked better on the court.
''I hope that's a progression that's not going to stop.''
The Toppers' relentless pressure defense not only forced 22 turnovers, but it helped to wear down the Bobcats and lead to easy shots for most of the second half. West Liberty couldn't get much going to the basket during the initial 20 minutes.
''We preached don't let them go middle - the paint's the house and don't allow them into the house,'' Beilein said. ''They just kept driving middle and driving middle, and that's why they're the No. 1 team in the country.
''That's a well-oiled machine.''
Keene Cockburn, a postseason stalwart last spring, scored 13 points and grabbed four rebounds in nine minutes as West Liberty showed off its depth. Seger Bonifant added 11 points while Cedric Harris notched 10 points. Sophomore C.J. Hester pulled down 18 rebounds and Chris Morrow had four points, six rebounds, three assists and three blocks.
''There are a lot of guys who can contribute that aren't going to get a chance because I'm not going to play 12 guys,'' Crutchfield said. ''I'm not someone that likes to have a revolving door with substitutions.
''But if guys get hurt, I think every single one of our guys can play and be a contributor.''
Wesleyan stars Kelsey Williams (2-for-13) and Noah Cottrill (5-for-16), a one-time West Virginia signee, were limited to 17 total points. T.J. Thompson led the Bobcats, who shot 29 percent for the game, with 13 points.
''It's a good learning experience and I'm glad we came to play a team like West Liberty, because that kind of gives us a gauge as to where we are as a team and awakens a lot of our guys,'' Beilein said. ''It's all about learning. We preach the team and it's about the team.
''That's a perfect example with West Liberty. They don't care who scores, they just want to win.''