No. 5 WLU Hits for 110 Vs. Jackets
West Liberty women win while WJU?earns sweep
WEST LIBERTY — The No. 5-ranked West Liberty University men’s basketball team continued to pull away from the rest of the Mountain East Conference on Thursday night with a 110-87 blowout of West Virginia State at the ASRC.
The win by Coach Ben Howlett’s high-flying Hilltoppers (21-1 overall, 16-1 MEC), coupled with Fairmont State’s upset loss at UVa-Wise, gives the Black and Gold a three-game lead over the rest of the conference with five games left in the regular season.
Not that anybody in the West Liberty locker room is paying attention to the standings.
“I really don’t focus on any of that stuff unless somebody says something to me about how well we’re playing or how big a lead we have,” junior guard Evan French said. “I tell them, ‘Thanks for telling me but we have a tough game coming up that I need to prepare for.’
“None of us really look ahead. We all believe that if we take care of business every night, the other things will take care of themselves.”
The Hilltoppers had a tough time sustaining any momentum in the opening 20 minutes and settled for a 48-43 lead at halftime.
It was a different story when play resumed as West Liberty opened the second half with an 8-1 burst to open up a 56-44 lead and stayed in control the rest of the way, leading by as many as 25 points down the stretch.
“I thought Evan and James (Griffin) really gave us some great minutes,” Howlett said. “We could have been in trouble in the first half if it wasn’t for Evan coming in to hit some big shots for us and James’ highlight-reel dunk really got everyone excited when we broke it open in the second half.”
All-American Dan Monteroso poured in 24 points to pace six double-figure scorers in a typically balanced Hilltoppers attack.
Dalton Bolon scored 17 of his 19 points after halftime while Jordan Watson had a big game off the bench with 17 points, three assists and two steals. French had 11 of his 13 points in the first half and Brandon Smith finished with 11.
Griffin, on the rebound from flu-like symptoms that sidelined him for all but a few minutes of WLU’s last game, had 10 points, six rebounds and a game-high five assists along with a spectacular tomahawk dunk that punctuated a back-breaking run midway through the second half.
“Once we get on a roll and the crowd gets into it like it did, we just seem able to take it up a notch into overdrive,” French said. “When James got that dunk, the whole bench jumped up. The steals, layups, 3-pointers, all of that. We really feed off that energy.”
Pat Johnson-Agwu had a game-high 27 points for State while Ernest Jenkins added 17 in a losing cause.
Wheeling Jesuit 75
WHEELING — Unlike five days ago, Wheeling Jesuit claimed the final five minutes.
After the University of Charleston took its first lead since three minutes into the game, the Cardinals rattled off the next nine points, with six of them from Haywood Highsmith, and converted at the line in the final 30 seconds.
Trailing 61-60 at exactly six minutes left, Highsmith dropped a 12-foot jumper in the lane, before he swiped a Golden Eagles (13-10, 9-8) pass on the defensive end and laid the ball in to start the nine-point run, 69-61.
Charleston made a final push and pulled to within a point, but Preston Boswell made four straight of his nine foul shots in the game to seal the WJU (18-5, 13-4) victory.
“It was a hard-fought win. Charleston was able to control the pace, but we made enough plays to win the game. We defended the 3-pointer well. Overall, our defense did not play well, but it created some turnover to win the game,” Cardinals coach Danny Sancomb said. “Pat Moseh had a solid game for us and we received quality first-half minutes from both Ryan Cooper and Chris Greene.”
Moseh led all Cardinals scorers with 18 points on 7 of 12 shooting to go with five rebounds, four steals and two assists. Behind 9 of 9 from the foul line, Boswell added 16 points and four assists.
For only the second time in 22 games, Highsmith fell short of a double-double, but still posted 14 points, nine boards, four assists, two blocks and a pair of steals.
Jeremiah Wilson added 10 points and seven rebounds, while Drake Goddard downed three 3-pointers. Cooper went 2 for 2 on his long-range tries for six points.
West Liberty 106, W.Va. State 86
WEST LIBERTY — Junior post Marissa Brown powered in 35 points and grabbed 19 rebounds to lead four double-figure scorers and West Liberty led wire-to-wire in blitzing West Virginia State.
It was the fifth straight win for Coach Kyle Cooper’s red-hot Hilltoppers (12-11, 11-6), who strengthened their hold on third place in the Mountain East Conference standings.
“This was very much a statement win,” said Cooper, who brought his entire starting lineup to the postgame press conference. “It was a statement about a team that has fully bought into the concept of team basketball, that fights for every possession and fights for each other.”
Senior guard McKenna Shives echoed that sentiment.
“The great thing about this team is that nobody pays attention to how many points they score,” Shives said. “The only thing we really care about in terms of points is making sure we have more points than the other team at the end of the game.”
West Liberty led by as many as 13 points in the opening half before settling for a 43-35 edge at intermission.
Junior guard Brandi Beader took advantage of the floor opening up to score 24 points while Shives rained in six 3-pointers and handed out six assists. Freshman guard Audrey Tingle added 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds while Johnie Olkosky stuffed the stat sheet with six points, six assists and 11 rebounds.
Wheeling Jesuit 64, Charleston 49
WHEELING — Chenelle Moore exerted herself early and helped Wheeling Jesuit take control early and coast home with a victory and its first season sweep.
Moore scored the game’s opening bucket, added nine more in the first quarter and posted 15 points for the first half as the Cardinals (11-12, 9-8) built a 19-10 and 31-16 opening-half advantage. The WJU lead grew to as many as 27 points, 49-22, in the late third, before Charleston (9-13, 6-11) made a late push for naught.
“Our defense was stellar for 40 minutes. We followed our scout perfectly throughout the game. Our players played very unselfish and shared the ball,” WJU coach Debbie Buff said. “Chenelle and Cassi (Stein) were exceptional. Mo Burns was efficient in all phases offensively.”
WJU held Charleston to 19 of 53 shooting. But when the game was still not decided, the Cardinals defense locked down the Goldens Eagles to a 10-for-35 tune (.286).
After 15 points and six rebounds in the first half, Moore finished with 20 points on 8 of 12 from the floor with nine rebounds and three steals. Stein was solid with a 6 of 12 night for 13 points and six caroms.
Burns added 13 points, including three treys, to go with five boards and three assists. Mariah Callen handed out six assists and chipped in seven tallies. Lauren Lipscomb and Taliah Caldwell had five points apiece.