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West Liberty women fall to Charleston

WHEELING – In its past two games, the West Liberty women’s basketball team was able to make some ground in the Mountain East Conference standings after securing victories over West Virginia Wesleyan and West Virginia State.

The Hilltoppers were trying to put a third staight win together Sunday as Charleston paid a visit to the ASRC. Unfortunately for Coach Kyle Cooper’s squad, the Golden Eagles proved to be too much. Anna Hayton and Erykah Russell both supplied double-doubles to lead Charleston to a 72-59 victory over West Liberty.

The game was also played on a national stage as it was part of the NCAA D2 Basketball Showcase.

“All-in-all, I think the thing that stands out to me about us right now is I thought we did enough defensively to win the basketball game,” Cooper said. “I thought our game plan was really good and most importantly, no game plan matters if its not executed or its not fought for. I thought our players did a really good job. There were very few moments in the game where I thought we blew an assignment.”

After a pair of free throws by Hayton to start the scoring in the second quarter, the Hilltoppers went on a 9-1 run to secure their largest lead of the game as the score read 30-24 with 4:51 left on the clock after Taylor Johnson finished a conventional 3-point play.

The Golden Eagles, though, took the lead for good as they went on a small spurt of their own. A Hayton bucket sparked a 10-1 Charleston run to end the first half as the score read 34-31.

Charleston, then took its first double digit lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Hilltoppers ripped off five straight points to get within five, but that’s as close as they would get.

The Hilltoppers went 3 of 17 from the floor in the fourth quarter and 21 of 64 overall. West Liberty also shot 8 of 34 from behind the 3-point arc.

“We picked a really poor night to not shoot the basketball well and to not finish plays a little bit better and to get a little bit better shot selection, that’s probably the part that’s hard,” Cooper said. “You turn it over 15 times, the adjusted turnovers is a little high for this. And it’s not a product of one person, it’s a product of not working hard enough to get a better position for a shot collectively. I thought all-in-all we did enough defensively, I just wish we played a little bit better offensively and got into transition a little bit more.”

Taylor led the way for West Liberty with 22 points.

Hayton had a team-high with 30 points and 15 rebounds while Russell turned in a 20-point, 10-rebound performance. Tayliyah Hopkins rounded out the double digit scorers with 11 points.

From start to finish the Golden Eagles also attacked the rim and had very minimal jumpshots including only attempting one 3-pointer.

“That’s kind of been their M.O.,” Cooper said. “And to their credit to their staff and as a program, they understand what teams are willing to give up and what they are not. It’s reflected by who’s minutes looks likes who’s minutes. A kid that shoots a ton of 3s, plays less minutes in this game because we’re not going to give them to her. In another game where teams playing heaving help side, she’s going to play more minutes because it stretches the floor for them. They knew what they wanted to do coming out and we thought they would come out with size. They were pretty efficient and physical.”

Cooper also complimented on playing on a big stage on Sunday.

“Great crowd, I thought it was awesome,” Cooper said. “There’s no better place than to play here. There’s no doubt about it. Getting the D-II showcase here, that’s awesome for us. What an experience for our players. Obviously, I wish that they were celebrating being 1-0 after that experience, but still really, really good for women’s basketball and really, really good for our program.”

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