Toppers Crush Blues

WEST LIBERTY – Fourth-ranked NCAA Division II men’s basketball power West Liberty got off to a slow start shooting the basketball Monday night, but the Hilltoppers’ relentless pressure eventually wore down road-weary Bluefield State 111-72 at the ASRC.

Coach Jim Crutchfield’s once-beaten club began the game hitting 12 of 34 shots and led 34-31 nearing the five-minute mark of the opening half until constant harassment from West Liberty’s full-court defense finally took its toll.

The Hilltoppers then excited another big home crowd by outscoring the Big Blues 21-5 to carry a 55-36 lead into the locker room at halftime. From that point the game was never in doubt, as West Liberty led by as many as 40 points in the second half.

Continuing pursuit of a fourth consecutive West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship, the Hilltoppers racked up victory No. 18 overall while improving their league mark to 12-1.

Bluefield, 0-16 at the outset of the season, came into the game with hopes of springing another upset after having knocked off two highly-regarded opponents Glenville and Shepherd in its last two starts.

”Wow, it was really ugly,” Crutchfield said after his team finally took care of business. ”We had some bad turnovers and we shot the ball horribly. Yet, if you look at the scoreboard we’re up 40.

”It is all about style,” Crutchfield continued. ”Everybody is vulnerable to what we could call an upset. But our (aggressive) style of play limits it some.”

Early in the game, Crutchfield kept running players in and out of the game to keep fresh troops on the floor, hoping to take advantage of what he thought would tired legs by the visitors.

”This was about wearing people down,” Crutchfield explained. ”I’ve been around this league long enough to know what two long road trips and three games in five nights can do to a team.”

One Hilltopper who stayed on the floor through most of the first half was Alex Falk. The 6-foot-4 senior wing led both the offensive and defensive charge by scoring 16 points, dishing off for five assists and coming up with six steals.

With the game well in hand, Falk played just a couple of minutes in the second half before taking a seat on the bench. After the lead was extended past 30 points, he was soon joined by the rest of the Hilltoppers’ first five.

”The starters didn’t play extended minutes ,” Crutchfield happily pointed out. ”Alex played 40 minutes two nights ago at Wheeling and after he took his second charge, I thought that’s good (enough) for him.

”For a half, defensively, Falk was just about as annoying as he could get for another team. He got his hands on the ball all over the place,” Crutchfield added.

Falk, with his 16-point opening half, was one of five Hilltoppers scoring in double figures.Goodwin had another good night with 14 points overall, four rebounds and two assists. Hester, Brown and Cedric Harris ended with 12 points each. Hester also pulled down 10 rebounds.

Bluefield’s leading scorers’ were Treon Clairborne and Detterance Norwood with 18 points each. Ouedraogo, a Damien (N.Y.) transfer hails from the West African nation of Burkina Faso, formerly known as Upper Volta.

West Liberty played the second half minus starting forward Chris Morrow, who sustained a possible dislocated jaw during the game’s first 20 minutes.