Courtesy of West Liberty Athletics
WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. — West Virginia Wesleyan knocked off Indiana (Pa.), then ranked in the top 10, in its last game and looked to add unbeaten and No. 3-ranked West Liberty to its upset resume. It didn’t happen quite as planned as West Liberty (9-0, 5-0) bolted to a 12-2 lead and led by as many as 33 points while coasting to a 130-103 victory on Saturday night.
The Bobcats (3-3, 2-2) had scored a 73-71 victory against then-No. 7 Indiana (Pa.) in their most recent outing on Dec. 7, but could not hang onto the ball long enough to make a run at the Hilltoppers. Wesleyan finished with 32 turnovers in the contest.
“Wesleyan’s a very talented basketball team,” Hilltopper head coach Jim Crutchfield said. “They shot 70 percent from the 3-point line in the first half and were out-rebounding us, as well, but we had forced enough turnovers to still be up by 13 points, so I felt pretty good about that.”
West Liberty stretched the 70-57 halftime lead to 97-76 on a pair of Corey Pelle free throws with 12:06 remaining before putting the game on ice with a typical WLU scoring burst. Tim Hausfeld capped the 18-4 spurt with a runner in the lane to give the Hilltoppers their largest lead of the day, 113-80, with 9:11 still to play. Hausfeld keyed the surge by scoring eight of his 15 points during the run, including six points at the charity stripe after a trio of technical fouls were whistled against the Bobcats.
“You never want to let a team as good as Wesleyan hang around,” Crutchfield said. “It’s much harder coming back from a 25-point deficit than 12 or 13 points, so I was glad to see that lead get up in the 20s and 30s.”
Corey Pelle posted a game-high 24 points and the senior guard just missed a triple-double with nine assists and eight rebounds while adding a game-high six steals.
Jordan Fortney backed Pelle with 22 points — 21 in the first half — while Barry Shetzer posted a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. The trio led the list of six double-figure Hilltopper scorers.
Wesleyan — which opened the game with five NCAA Division I transfers in the starting lineup — was paced by Dominique Ngniman, who came off the bench with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Colby Wohlleb and Reggie Chambers added 20 and 19 points, respectively.
“I don’t think we could have played any better than we’ve played to this point,” Crutchfield said. “The key for us will be continuing to improve as the season goes on because the teams we play will be getting better, but right now I know we’ll be undefeated for at least the next couple of weeks [without any games on the schedule], so it’s going to be a very merry Christmas.”