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Rams fall to West Liberty

January 12, 2007|by JOHN O'BRIEN / Staff Correspondent

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Merely holding the nation's top-scoring team under its average wasn't enough for Shepherd University men's basketball coach Ken Tyler Thursday night.

That's because the 97-86 loss to West Liberty probably will result in the Rams no longer being the toughest defensive team in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Five Hilltoppers scored in double figures, led by Corey McDuffie's 25, as West Liberty (11-2, 4-0) continued its strong start to the season.

West Liberty began the night averaging 104.5 points per game, while the Rams (9-4, 3-1) yielded just 66.5.

Shepherd's early seven-point lead quickly disappeared thanks to West Liberty's offensive potency, and the Rams struggled to stay within striking distance for most of the second half.

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"They like to spread you out, penetrate and pitch," Tyler said. "It's easy to underestimate their kids when you see them come into the gym, but they can all play. They did a great job spreading us out and exposing any flaws we had defensively."

West Liberty shot 51 percent for the game and made 9 of 21 3-pointers. It also only turned the ball over eight times to Shepherd's 16.

Shepherd held a 44-37 lead with 2:39 remaining in the first half, but the Hilltoppers closed on a 9-0 run thanks to three Shepherd turnovers. Shane Maynard hit a jumper, Chris Blair scored two free throws, Scott Mirich added two layups and Ben Howlett added another over the final two minutes to take a 46-44 lead into halftime.

West Liberty continued on that pace at the start of the second half, beginning it with a 17-8 advantage over the first 5:38 to take a 63-52 lead.

The Rams got no closer than eight points the rest of the half.

In addition to McDuffie's 25 points, Howlett added 17, Dan Binggeli 16, Blair 14 and Mirich 10.

Danley Shank led Shepherd with 26 points on 13 of 21 shooting, but could not get to the foul line. Teammate Barry Cornish did, however, shooting 13 of 16 from the stripe. He finished with 17 points and nine rebounds. Yves Moliva added 18 points and eight rebounds for the Rams.

The loss was the first in seven games at home for the Rams, who were off to their best start since 1992-93.

Their conference-best rebounding margin got a boost, winning that category, 36-28.

Shepherd, however, lost despite shooting 54 percent from the field. The Hilltoppers shot 11 more free throws than the Rams.

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