WLU routs Slippery Rock 117-73
Hilltoppers move to 30-0 with NCAA First Round victory
WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. -- West Liberty University’s unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Hilltoppers set a school record with their 30th victory Saturday night, racing away to a 117-73 rout of Slippery Rock in an NCAA Division II Atlantic Region quarterfinal before an overflow crowd at the ASRC.
The Hilltoppers (30-0) will take on CIAA champion Shaw, N.C. (23-8) tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the second game of a regional semifinal doubleheader. A limited number of tickets for tonight’s session will go on sale at the ASRC when the gates open at 4 p.m. – one hour before the 5 p.m. semifinal between Indiana, Pa. (25-5) and Bowie State, Md. (23-5).
Seating at the ASRC is on a first-come, first-served basis and with another early sellout expected, West Liberty athletic director Jim Watson urges fans to arrive early in order to avoid being left without a seat.
Saturday’s win against Slippery Rock marked the 23rd time Coach Jim Crutchfield’s high-powered squad has hit the century mark this season and the 30th win surpasses the previous school record of 29 victories, which was set by last year’s team during its run to the Atlantic Region championship game.
The Rock (21-11), which earned the No. 8 seed by advancing to the finals of last week’s PSAC Tournament, was able to keep things close for a while by slowing the tempo and limiting possessions but Crutchfield said he wasn’t all that concerned.
“We had trouble making shots early,” Crutchfield said, “but I thought the pace of the game was going in our favor. Slippery Rock is really good inside so we wanted to open the floor and play the game between the foul lines instead of down on the blocks. For the most part, I think we were able to do that.”
The Rock was still within range, trailing 29-22 with 7:30 remaining in the first half, when the Hilltopper defense gave the offense a kick start.
West Liberty’s full-court pressure forced three straight turnovers, all of which were almost instantly turned into points. The Hilltoppers’ sharpshooters chose this juncture to find the range from behind the 3-point arc and things quickly got out of hand.
With another overflow crowd rocking the ASRC, West Liberty reeled off 17 unanswered points over the next 3 minutes to go up, 46-22. Although there were nearly 5 minutes still remaining in the first half, the issue had already been decided.
“There’s a reason West Liberty is 30-0,” Slippery Rock coach Kevin Reynolds said. “We knew they were a very good team when we watched them on tape, but after seeing them in person, they’re better.”
The margin never dropped below 20 points the rest of the night. The Hilltoppers took a 60-32 lead into the locker room at intermission and the reserves led by as many as 45 points in the waning minutes.
Tim Hausfeld came off the bench to lead six double-figure scorers with 20 points. John Wolosinczuk added 19 points, Corey Pelle had 13 and Chris Morrow tossed in a dozen. Barry Shetzer and Alex Falk rounded out WLU’s double-figure scorers with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Slippery Rock, which finished with 19 turnovers and just 2 assists, got 12 points from Jabril Bailey. Aubin Reeves and Joe Vines added 10 points each.
“Our defense has been generating offense for us all season,” Crutchfield said, “and I think this was one of our better defensive games. Our pressure was good but I also thought we played very good half-court defense, as well.
“I wasn’t aware that they only had 2 assists in the game. That tells me we’re doing a pretty good job. Maybe we’re turning into a defensive team.”