Toppers Hammer Findlay

FINDLAY, Ohio – West Liberty University senior All-American Alex Falk and the No. 1-ranked Hilltoppers turned No. 8 Findlay’s ”White-Out Night” into ”Blow-Out Night” with a 90-74 romp Wednesday night at a jam-packed Croy Gymnasium.

Falk poured in a career-high 37 points and West Liberty led by as many as 28 points down the stretch in the first Top 10 showdown of the NCAA Division II men’s basketball season.

The lead changed hands several times in the early going but it didn’t take long for Coach Jim Crutchfield’s road warriors to gain the upperhand.

The Hilltoppers went ahead to stay, 15-14, on a pair of Falk free throws less than 5 minutes after the opening tip but the Oilers (0-1) kept things close for a while.

Findlay was still within range, trailing 21-16 as the first-half clock ticked past the seven-minute mark, when a 3-pointer by Falk at the 6:43 mark ignited what proved to be a decisive West Liberty surge.

When Falk capped the 15-3 run with a runout layup off a Cedric Harris steal, the Hilltoppers had opened up a 36-19 lead with 1:52 left in the opening half.

West Liberty took a 39-23 edge into the locker room at intermission and picked up right where it had left off when play resumed as another Falk 3-pointer pushed the count to 49-30 at 16:05 of the second half.

Findlay never threatened again. The lead swelled to 28 points, 79-51, on a C.J. Hester drive with 8:37 remaining and the Hilltoppers coasted the rest of the way.

Falk also finished with five steals and played a key role in WLU’s high-pressure defense that harried the Oilers into 22 turnovers.

Hester backed Falk with a double-double – 16 points and 13 rebounds – while Tim Hausfeld added 10 points and Harris contributed a game-high nine assists to go along with eight points and four steals.

Brad Piehl and Greg Kahlig had 15 and 14 points, respectively, for Findlay.

The Hilltoppers will be idle this weekend but return to the ASRC on Tuesday for their home opener against West Virginia Conference rival West Virginia Wesleyan. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.