No. 1 West Liberty men cruise
FINDLAY 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 upper hand.
The Hilltoppers went ahead to stay, 15-14, on a pair of Falk free throws less than 5 minutes after the opening tap but the Oilers (0-1) kept things close for a while.
Findlay was still within range, trailing just 21-16 as the first half clock ticked past the 7-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 finished with 37 points and, with 5 steals, 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 9 assists to go along with 8 points and 4 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.
Falk moved past former teammate Barry Shetzer (1,326) to take over 26th place on West Liberty’s career scoring list with 1,331 points
The 37 points eclipsed Falk’s previous career high of 32 points, set in an 89-76 win against West Virginia Wesleyan on Jan. 21, 2012
Falk is one steal away from becoming only the third player in WLU history to record 200 career steals
Findlay had won 86 of its last 87 home games and came into Wednesday night’s game with a 153-3 (.981) record at Croy Gymnasium over the past 9 seasons
The Hilltoppers have won 87 of their last 90 regular-season games dating back to the 2008-09 campaign
West Liberty improved to 103-3 under Crutchfield when holding its opponent under 80 points