CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Charleston (W.Va.) knocked off previously unbeaten and No. 1 West Liberty 101-96 behind three Golden Eagles’ 20-plus point perfomances.
The game got off to a feverish pace much to the liking of the visiting Hilltoppers, forcing UC into early turnovers that resulted in a nine-point lead with 14:50 left to go in the opening half. Coach Downey called a timeout, brought his team together and regrouped. Charleston responded with a 3-pointer by Xavier Humphrey, but West Liberty answered with a 3-pointer by Tim Hausfeld at the other end.
The back and forth action continued, but momentum UC’s way after a 3-pointer by Evan Faulkner and a driving layup by Terrell Lipkins made the score 26-21 with 11:41 to go in the first half.
The Golden Eagles continued to fight drawing within two after a hard drive by Dreher at the eight-minute mark. Charleston took the lead late in the half 36-35 after a 3-pointer by sharpshooter Hayden Annett. The pace of the game slowed down the last four minutes of the half as the referees began to blow their whistle more frequently. Charleston took advantage of the whistles and began driving to the basket hard, primarily by Dreher who got to the line 10 times in the first 20 minutes, hitting six of his attempts. The Golden Eagles took an eight-point lead into the locker room at 51-43, led by Dreher’s 12 first-half points.
UC was able to extend its lead to 13 points after a layup by Lipkins off a Hilltopper turnover making the score 62-49. West Liberty responded with a run of its own, hitting on back-to-back 3-pointers to get the lead back down to single digits. UC took a nine-point lead heading into the first media break in the second half. West Liberty was beating UC to the glass and getting extra looks but couldn’t convert on those opportunities. Charleston started to look inside to Aleksander Kesic and responded with getting to the rim making easy layups, pushing the lead out to 11 with about five minutes remaining.
The Hilltoppers responded with a quick 5-0 burst, getting the game within two possesions with two minutes remaining in regulation. Kesic was fouled on a put-back and knocked down two free throws – making the score 95-88 with 1:22 left to go. The Hilltoppers got a few good looks at the rim and pulled within five points with one minute to go. Kesic’s two free throws put the lead back to seven with 30 seconds remaining.
West Liberty’s Lipkins made all three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt to pull within four with 18 second left on the clock. After a pair of Charleston free throws, WLU made 3-pointer to make it a one possession game with 12.6 to go. Following a pair Faulkner misses from the charity stripe, the Hilltoppers had an opportunity to even the game. West Liberty was unable to take a 3-point shot and committed a foul in the process. Charleston’s Dreher converted on both free throws to ice the game for the Golden Eagles in a 101-96 victory.
Dreher finished with 21 points and 8 rebounds for the Golden Eagles. Kesic added 20 points and nine rebounds while Lipkins contributed 20 points of his own.