WEST LIBERTY - Shawn Dyer scored a career-high 31 points and West Liberty shot a blistering 61 percent from the floor as the unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Hilltoppers sprinted away to a 108-83 victory against Urbana at the ASRC.
West Liberty (7-0, 4-0) never trailed in coasting past the Blue Knights (0-8, 0-4), foiling Urbana's strategy of forcing a slower pace with its best shooting performance of the season.
"(Urbana) actually did slow the game down," WLU coach Jim Crutchfield said. "There were probably fewer possessions in this game than any game we've played for a while.
"The key for us was how efficient we were on offense, especially in the first half. Even with the limited possessions, we were still able to put 50 points on the board and take a 20-point halftime lead. It's awfully hard to stick with that strategy when you're down 20."
The Hilltoppers blistered the twine at a 70 percent clip (21-of-30) in the opening half with Dyer canning all 5 of his shots from the floor including a pair of 3-pointers while adding a couple of free throws to enter the break with 14 points.
A 48-percent career 3-point shooter, Dyer had made just 2 of his last 11 3-point shots coming into Saturday's game but the 6-0 junior from Marion, Ohio zeroed in early against the Blue Knights.
"It was good to see Shawn get back on track," Crutchfield said, "but it certainly wasn't a surprise. Shawn knows and we know that he's one of several guys who are capable of doing that on any given night. That's one of our strengths as a team."
Trailing 53-33 as the second half got under way, Urbana never seriously threatened. The lead reached 37 points on several occasions midway through the second half as West Liberty breezed to its 56th consecutive home conference victory.
Dyer didn't lack for offensive support as Keene Cockburn added 16 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks while Seger Bonifant chipped in with a dozen points and Devin Hoehn came off the bench with 10. Kelvin Goodwin had 9 points and 6 rebounds while Zak Kirkbride also finished with 9 points as all 12 Hilltoppers hit the scoring column.
The Blue Knights who used only seven players had five double-figure scorers with Danny Goins' 25 points leading the way.
West Liberty will be off this week for semester exams and will close out the pre-holiday portion of its schedule on Dec. 17 when the Hilltoppers host Cedarville (Ohio) in a 7:30 p.m. game at the ASRC.
West Liberty 74
WEST LIBERTY - Urbana's DeVonyea Johnson hit a driving layup with one second remaining to hand West Liberty a frustrating loss in Mountain East Conference women's basketball action at the ASRC.
The Hilltoppers (3-5, 2-2) had used a 17-3 run to overcome a double-digit deficit in the first five minutes of the second half and never trailed again until Johnson beat the buzzer with the game-winner for the league-leading Blue Knights (6-1, 4-0).
West Liberty had a couple of chances to put the game away coming down the stretch.
After a free throw by Urbana's Katy Barkley cut the WLU lead to 74-73 with 50 seconds to go, the Hilltoppers ran the shot clock down into single digits but couldn't get a shot to drop. The ball was knocked out of bounds during the scramble for the rebound and the Blue Knights took over with 20 seconds remaining.
Johnson, the team's leading scorer at 21.8 ppg., drove toward the basket but was cut off just outside the paint and lobbed up a hurried 8-footer. West Liberty's Kiki Simpson grabbed the rebound and was immediately fouled with 11 seconds left.
Simpson couldn't get either foul shot to drop and Urbana called its final timeout with 10.5 seconds on the clock to set up for the final shot.
"We knew what was coming," Hilltopper head coach Lynn Ullom said. "We had just stopped it on the previous possession but we figured they'd have Johnson try to get to the rim again looking to score or get to the foul line. It came down to a one-play game and they made one more play than we did."
It was a frustrating loss for a West Liberty team that had roared out of the blocks to take a 20-9 lead midway through the first half only to see the Blue Knights respond with a sustained surge that sent the visitors into the locker room with a 34-28 lead.
Jarrett Leads Muskingum
WESTERVILLE - Tori Jarrett recorded top honors in points and rebounds as Muskingum defeated Otterbein, 74-62, in an Ohio Athletic Conference tilt.
Jarrett, a Beallsville High School graduate, had 23 points and nine boards for the Muskies, now 2-4 overall and 1-1 in the conference.