No. 1 Toppers cruise

WEST LIBERTY – No. 1-ranked West Liberty shook off a slow start Monday night and dominated the final 30 minutes of a 116-79 victory against UVA-Wise at the ASRC.

Coach Jim Crutchfield’s Hilltoppers (10-0, 6-0) trailed through much of the early going and held just a 25-21 edge midway through the opening stanza but that’s when West Liberty’s relentless full-court pressure began to take its toll.

The Hilltoppers closed the half on a 30-12 run to take a 55-33 lead into the locker room and the Virginia visitors never threatened again.

West Liberty, which leads the nation in scoring at 114.1 ppg., hit 45-of-91 shots from the floor and drained 14 3-point field goals but Crutchfield’s attention was focused on the other end of the court.

“Tonight wasn’t about shooting, it was about defense,” Crutchfield said. “I thought our press was really effective. Even though we didn’t turn them over a lot, relatively speaking, I think we made them uncomfortable.”

The Hilltoppers were charted with 14 steals just 4 off their season-high and UVA-Wise was charted with just 7 assists to go against 23 turnovers. West Liberty handed out 24 assists while giving up just 10 turnovers.

Kelvin Goodwin came off the bench to lead a balanced WLU attack with 22 points. Shawn Dyer had a solid game with 19 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals while Cedric Harris stuffed the stat sheet with 12 points, 9 assists and 6 steals. The 9 assists put Harris over 400 for his Hilltopper career.

Seger Bonifant weighed in with 17 points, Keene Cockburn added 16 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks and Devin Hoehn closed out the double-figure scorers with 11 points.

“I know Kelvin led us in scoring,” Crutchfield said, “but I think this might have been the best defensive game of his career. He was running people down from behind in the press and that’s something we haven’t seen for a while up here.

“Cedric’s shot wasn’t dropping today but he found other ways to contribute and that’s really the case for a lot of our guys. I thought we shared the ball very well tonight and got everybody involved. This was a good win.”

Deon Boyce had a huge game in defeat for the Cavaliers, scoring 23 points and grabbing 19 rebounds both game-highs. The 19 rebounds tied the ASRC record for rebounds by an opposing player.

West Liberty puts its unbeaten record and MEC lead on the line Thursday night when the Hilltoppers travel to Shepherd (10-2, 5-1). Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at the Rams’ Butcher Athletic Center.

“We know they’re going to be excited to play us,” Crutchfield said. “They have a really good team and we’re going to have to play well to come out of there with a win.”