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West Liberty impresses, blows out Shepherd

January 18, 2008|By CHRIS CARTER / Staff Correspondent

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - The West Liberty State men's basketball team was as good as advertised Thursday night.

The Hilltoppers swooped into the Butcher Center and delivered a pitch Shepherd University won't soon forget in a 102-60 victory.

"First and foremost, West Liberty is a phenomenal basketball team, one of the best I have seen at the Division II level," said Shepherd coach Ken Tyler. "In terms of shooting the basketball and sharing the basketball, that was as impressive of a performance that I've seen."

West Liberty - ranked ninth in the latest NCAA Division II coaches poll - entered the West Virginia Conference matchup as the nation's highest scoring team at 96.8 points per game. The Hilltoppers shot a blistering 55.6 percent from the field to post the highest point total against the Rams this season by 21 points.

Ben Howlett led six West Liberty players in double figures with 19 points. Scott Mirich scored 13, Corey Pelle had 12, Dan Binggeli and Chris Banal each had 11 and Kameron Law added 10. Binggeli also had team-highs of eight rebounds, five assists and six steals.

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The Hilltoppers (13-0, 7-0) are one of three unbeaten Division II teams in the nation.

"That's the worst home loss I've had in my seven years here," Tyler said. "I thank the fans for coming out in bad weather to support us. I was really hoping the snow was going to keep (West Liberty) from coming into the gym."

Instead, West Liberty brought the storm inside. The Hilltoppers hit 7 of 9 shots to open the game and raced out to an 18-0 lead with 16:45 still left in the first half. Tyler called three timeouts in the first seven minutes of action to try to slow the onslaught, but nothing could be done. By the time the Rams (8-5, 2-4) hit their first field goal with 13:32 left in the half, West Liberty had a 20-point lead.

"We played poorly, but a lot of that had to do with West Liberty," Tyler said. "I hope this is just one of those nights that happens once in a while. We got a lesson of what a good D-II team looks like."

The game was a far cry from the first meeting between the conference foes on Dec. 8. The Rams trailed by just three points at halftime before West Liberty pulled away in the second half. Shepherd held the Hilltoppers to 78 points in the loss - their lowest output of the season.

"We've defended well the last three times we've played them and we held them to some of their lowest totals," Tyler said. "There's not a lot we could have done in this one. We tried zone, tried man, took our big man out and went with a smaller lineup. We did it all."

"Even at the very end, their backup kids played harder than ours."

As in sync as the Hilltoppers were, those backups likely could have done just fine against the Shepherd starters.

The Rams missed their first 10 shots of the game and finished 8-for-32 (25 percent) from the floor in the first half and trailed 52-23 at the break.

Shepherd improved in the second half, but it was far too late. Fred Lymas and Justin Jarman each had 13 points for the Rams, who had 26 turnovers. Lymas had 10 rebounds, while Jarman grabbed eight.

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