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West Liberty shows No. 1 wares

By Staff | Jan 17, 2014

A team like West Liberty, ranked No. 1 in the country at the NCAA Division II level, sometimes only needs a 90-second interval to rush past an opponent and accomplish enough scoring to win a game.

In its Mountain East Conference meeting with Shepherd, the run-run Hilltoppers tore off scoring runs in both halves of their 120-89 win over the ever-chasing Rams.

There was a 10-point Hilltopper spurt in a quick 90-second scoring spree in the first half. And then unbeaten West Liberty smothered the Rams with the first eight points of the second half, taking a 15-point lead that it continued to increase with unerring three-point shooting as it fatigued Shepherd with its quality roster of ready reserves.

West Liberty countered Shepherd’s sweat-soaked efforts with a 74-point second half, where it made 11 of its 16 three-point field goal attempts.

In moving to 11-0 overall and 8-0 in the Mountain East, the Hilltoppers forced still another opponent to play its rapid-paced, pressure defense style of racehorse basketball.

Few opponents are ever comfortable against West Liberty. Dealing with its style of backcourt pressure and platoon substitution wears away the energy of its intended victims. And when just enough fatigue creeps in, the Hilltoppers find an unending stream of uncontested long-range shots.

There is no need for a perfect or even near-perfect game. Points can be counted — and were against Shepherd — in such short order that a game can actually be decided in 3-minute deluge of scoring.

Coach Jim Crutchfield has 10 players who are effective perimeter shooters and get-to-the-basket scorers in transition that he relies on no one or two players.

West Liberty presents so many problems elsewhere that opponents don’t realize what a potent rebounding team it is. Shepherd faced a 20-rebound deficit in swallowing only its third loss of the 13-game season.

Double-figure scorers were everywhere for West Liberty. And none of them even played 29 minutes.

Shepherd’s much thinner bench showed only Marcus Pilgrim as any shield against the non-stop West Liberty flow of trouble.

West Liberty never batted an eye. It was just looking for its often-found avalanche of points. And its searches were rewarded with a 74-point second half and 120 points in all.