Rine: Time Isn’t An Issue For WLU

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – There’s not a lot the West Liberty men’s basketball team has seen that could be termed “new.” Playing a game at Noon, which it will today against Stonehill (Mass.) College during the Elite Eight on the campus of Northern Kentucky University, would certainly qualify.

Used to playing in prime time, the Hilltoppers (32-2) are ready to do work at lunch time. To a man – and coach – they say that’s just fine.

“What we’ve been doing the past week is kind of waking up a little earlier and earlier,” Hilltoppers guard Alex Falk said Tuesday after practice at the Bank of Kentucky Center. “We’ve had practice around 7 o’clock the last five days or so trying to get our clocks right.

“We’ve been getting to bed a little earlier and I think that’s going to help us a lot.

“A lot of us we’re a lot more awake than normal at 7 (Tuesday) morning than we ever were. That’s as early as we get up throughout the whole year.”

Coach Jim Crutchfield certainly didn’t sound worried.

“We’ll hit the court at 11:25 (this) morning and that’s not our normal game time,” he said. “It won’t affect us in the least.”

Loose as Always

If there are nerves for this national quarterfinal, they weren’t evident during either shoot around Tuesday morning. Both the Hilltoppers and Skyhawks were quite jovial going through their drills, which consisted of one half slam dunk contest, another 3-point shootout.

“That’s typical for us,” Crutchfield said. “Before games we shoot around and it is usually is pretty light.”

Once those stands begin to fill though, it’s all business.

“The only thing we talk about is, the only thing that really matters is when they toss that ball up,” the coach said. “Those 40 minutes is what’s key.

“You can talk about the way we handle the day before at the shoot around or whatever, but we’re focused on those 40 minutes.”

The Skyhawks had a previous practice before taking the floor Tuesday at the BoK Center. Coach David McLaughlin said that probably helped quell some of the nervousness.

“Because you had a practice before you could go a little harder than that and then come here and enjoy this,” he said. “Down to business (today).”

It’s About Them

Few people have been able to force West Liberty to play a style it’s not comfortable with. Even when it happens, the Hilltoppers generally still win.

There’s a reason for that, Crutchfield said.

“The way we play is a two-part system,” he said. “We have to get good transition basketball, and we have to make the other team play it. We practice both.

“That’s part of what we want to try to do. We can’t think we’re going to run and ask them to run with us. We have to force that, and it’s been something we’ve worked on for years at West Liberty.

“Hopefully we are getting pretty good at it.”

West Liberty guard Cedric Harris said it’s all pretty simple.

“We just take one game at a time and Coach gives us a good game plan,” he said. “It’s been structured all year and we stay with what we do.

“I think if we do what we do, we’re always going to be successful.”

Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at