Monthly Archives: February 2012

Ding,Ding,Ding. Time for Round Three

The West liberty’s women basketball team will square off against West Virginia Wesleyan for the third time this season in the quarterfinal round of the WVIAC tournament.

Even with Wesleyan being the No. 1 seed, I like the women’s chances in this game. Lets take a look at the earlier meetings.

WLU won the first matchup 69-62 at the ASRC on Jan 21. In that game, the Hilltoppers managed to hold the All-WVIAC tandem of Lydia Bridenbaugh and Jamie Kaufman to 17 and nine points, respectively. The duo came into the game averaging a combined 44 ppg. West Liberty was able to keep the game close through out before going on an 11-2 run to seal the win.

Wesleyan proved to be the victors in the second meeting in Buckhannon. Though the Bobcats won 85-73, the night belonged to Kayla Ayers. The senior poured on 41 points while draining 13 3-pointers. (Yep, you read that right) However, this time around, WLU could not slow down the Bobcat duo with Bridenbaugh hitting for 27 and Kaufman adding 22.

The Hilltoppers must be physical with these team. West Liberty is coming off an 71-62 victory against Seton Hill, where it held a 26-4 advantage in the paint during the first half. This was the key stat for the game as the Hilltoppers went into halftime ahead 44-34 and never looked back.

Emily Blevins came away with a game-high 13 rebounds and will need to have that same success against Wesleyan for West Liberty to win. Look for Ayers to get plenty of attention from the Bobcats, giving Hillary Southworth an opportunity for a big game. Wesleyan does not want to be burned again from the perimeter so there will be man-t0-man options in the paint.

The Hilltoppers have momentum and the energy coming off a nine-point road win while Wesleyan was idle in the first round. Don’t be surprised for an upset Wednesday nigh at the Civic Center. The battle is set to tip off at 6:30.

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Lady Hilltoppers punch ticket to Charleston

The West Liberty women’s basketball team will advance to Charleston after winning the first round of the WVIAC tournament against Seton Hill 71-62 on Feb. 27.

The Hilltoppers (15-14, 12-11) hit the road for the first round of the conference tournament for the first time in coach Lynn Ullom’s tenure but improved his first round record to an impressive 15-1.

WLU may have played its best basketball of the season in the first half of the contest as they dominated in the paint, posting a 26-4 advantage to take a 44-34 halftime lead.

The Griffins (11-18) were able to make one last run after WLU took a 57-43 lead with 12:46 to play. A 6-0 Griffin run cut the lead to 57-49 with 9:56 left, but from that point on West Liberty just milked the clock.

Junior Emily Blevins finished the game with a double-double as she scored 24 points and grabbed 13 boards.

Senior Kayla Ayers also scored 24 points and now joins Hilltopper Hall of Famer Melissa Hammond as the only West Liberty women’s basketball players to score 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 200 3-point shots during their careers. Ayers was named to the first-team All-WVIAC after leading the nation in 3-pointers with 96.

Sophomore Hillary Southworth was the third Hilltopper to score in double-digits with 15 points. Southworth received second-team All-WVIAC honors after the lead-wide vote.

The Hilltoppers will advance to play West Virginia Wesleyan in the quarterfinal round of the tournament. Tip off for the game is set for 6:30 on Feb. 29.

The two teams split their regular season meetings with West Liberty winning at home 69-62 before dropping an 85-73 decision in Buckhannon.

In that game Ayers lit up the Bobcats for 44 points and hit 13 treys.

For the Hilltoppers to advance to the semifinals, they will have to find an answer for Wesleyan’s All-WVIAC tandem of Lydia Bridenbaugh and Jamie Kaufman.

In the first matchup Bridenbaugh was Wesleyan’s only double-figure scorer with 17 points while Kaufman was held to 9. However, in the second round Bridenbaugh hit for 27 points with Kaufman adding 22.

You can watch WLU-TV 14’s coverage of the WVIAC tournament live online at go.westliberty.edu/wltv/.

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I’m proud to be a Hilltopper

Whenever I came back to my apartment after the Hilltoppers 109-99 loss to Wheeling Jesuit, I logged onto Facebook. The very first status I saw really pissed me off.

It wasn’t a WJU student saying that West Liberty was overrated, nor was it a WJU student celebrating their teams victory. It was a student from the hilltop that made my blood boil.

Her status read, “I must say that tonight I am not proud to be a West Liberty HillTopper.”

I was stunned.

How could you ever, ever not be proud to be a Hilltopper? We had the No. 1-ranked team in the nation.

Let me restate that.

Our team is not only in first place in the Atlantic Region and the new West Virginia Conference champions, but the No. 1 team in the nation.  And not just the No. 1 team, but the only team in Division II men’s basketball with one loss.

Now we have two. Three total over the past two seasons.

And you’re not proud to be a Hilltopper?

Let me slap you in the face with a stat.

60 games.

West Liberty won 60 straight conference games. That has never been done before. WLU came up one win short of having back-to-back undefeated conference seasons. That also has never been done before.

But doing the impossible is nothing new for this basketball team.

Maybe because we’re on the inside we don’t fully appreciate the insanity of the situation, but this team lost four senior starters. Four, 1,000 point scorers who combined for over 5,000 points during their Hilltopper careers graduated.

That would cripple a program.

The Indianapolis Colts lost one player for one season and everything turned upside down. West Liberty lost four Peyton Mannings.

The Hilltoppers started this season the No. 6-ranked team just based off of last year’s reputation. And they were supposed to one way: down.

Never in a million years we’re they suppose to go on a 23-game win streak and rise to the top spot of the polls.

And you’re going to throw that out the door because they lost one game?

They lost to a team that has the second ranked scoring offense in the country and the third place team in the conference. (Note that the WVIAC is no joke anymore. Two teams are currently ranked in the Top 25 and five are seeded to play in the NCAA Division II tournament.)

So let me tell you something, honey, you don’t need to help everyone celebrate when we win the WVIAC tournament. And you don’t need to come by the ASRC when we’re hosting the regional tournament. And you don’t need to get a seat on the bus to Kentucky to watch our Hilltoppers in the finals.

Because according to a poll in the Wheeling Intelligencer on Feb. 23, 100 percent of voters said yes when asked if they believed the West Liberty would return to the Final Four.

So I guess you could say that they have plenty of supporters.

I’m one of them.

My name’s Tony Viola and I am proud to be a West Liberty Hilltopper.

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New Atlantic Region rankings

The No. 1-ranked Hilltoppers are once again the top seed in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region rankings. The NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Ranking Committee released their new poll Wednesday morning with No. 6-ranked Shaw as the second seed.

Here’s how the rest of the region plays out:

1 West Liberty 24-1 22-1
2 Shaw 21-2 21-2
3 Charleston (W.Va.) 21-4 21-4
4 West Virginia Wesleyan 17-7 17-7
5 Indiana (Pa.) 19-4 19-4
6 Bowie State 18-5 18-5
7 Alderson-Broaddus 17-7 17-7
8 Winston-Salem 16-6 16-6
9 Mercyhurst 16-8 16-8
10 Wheeling Jesuit 18-8 18-8

Be sure to check out the ‘taking a look around the region’ series to find out more about the teams the Hilltoppers might face in order to advance to the NCAA Division II tournament in  Highland Heights, Ky.

The regional tournament will begin on March 10.

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Taking a look around the region: W.Va. Wesleyan

Who are they?

West Virginia Wesleyan joins West Liberty as one of five teams from the West Virgina Conferance to be in the regional poll. The Bobcats are 17-7 on the season and sport a 13-7 mark against league competitors. WVWC is currently fifth in the WVIAC standings.  

Stars to Watch

Seinor Raymont McElroy is only one of only two Bobcats to start and play in all 24 games on the season. The two-time WVIAC player of the week averages 21.4 ppg, putting him in the top ten in the nation. Junior Kelsey Williams also posses problems for teams. The sharpshooter is ranked 13th in the nation in field goal percent, hitting 61 percent of his shots.

Last time against the Hilltoppers

The last time these two teams met Alex Falk poured in a career-high 32 points and as the No. 3-ranked Hilltoppers’ won 89-76 at the ASRC. Williams paced Wesleyan with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Should WLU keep an eye our for them?

Yes. Wesleyan can be a dangerous team and score a lot of points in a hurry. The Hilltoppers did a good job of keeping McElroy in check in the last metting but let Williams burn them for 21 points. If the defense can do a good job with the full court press, the offense should be able to outscore the Bobcats.

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Hilltopper Hoopsters No. 1 in Coaches Poll

Well, it’s happening again. The little university on top of a hill in West Virginia has the No. 1-ranked Division II basketball team.

“After losing four senior starters and 1,000-point scorers, I never expected to be No. 1 again this season – not in my wildest dreams,” coach Jim Crutchfield said. 

WLU spent the last nine weeks of last years season as the top ranked team in the nation while on their way to an undefeated regular season. This year the Hilltoppers started the season ranked sixth then fell to 14th before making the climb to the top spot.

  “After last year’s run, I could see us being ranked high at the start of the season based on reputation but you have to play pretty good basketball all year to be No. 1 at the end of the season.”

And playing good basketball is what West Liberty does. The Hilltoppers lead the nation in six different categories including scoring offense with 103.2 ppg.

WLU has already won the regular season WVIAC title and is currently seeded first for the WVIAC tournament which begins February 28.

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Taking a look around the region: Charleston

Who are they?

The University of Charleston (19-5, 19-4) are familar foes to the Hilltoppers as both are a part of the WVIAC. The Yellow Jackets find themselfs just out of the NCAA Division II Top-25, recieving six votes in Tuesday’s poll. UC is currently ranked No. 2 in the WVIAC and is on a seven game winning streak.

Stars to watch

PJ Reyes leads UC offensively at 20.2 points per game, which ranks him as the 24th best scorer in Division II. Rebounding has been a key to the teams success this season as the University of Charleston ranks seventh in overall rebounding margin paced by Eladio Espinosa’s  team-high 8 rebounds per game. As a team, Charleston is the 12th best scoring offense in Division II at 82.7 points per game.

Last time against the Hilltoppers

The last time these two teams met was on Dec. 1 when the Hilltoppers travled to Charleston to hand the Yellow Jackets a 100-83 thumping. Cedric Harris led West Liberty with 22 points while Shawn Dyer came off the bench to put up 17.

Should WLU keep an eye out for them?

Oh yeah. These teams have a good chance to face each other before the regional tournment in the WVIAC championship game. The Hilltoppers may have won by 17 points the last time but expect this matchup to be much closer as the Yellow Jackets are coming into their late season stride.

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Taking a look around the region: Shaw

Who are they?

Shaw University (located in Raleigh, North Carolina) is currently the No. 9 team in the National Association of Basketball Coaches Division II poll. This is the highest ranking in the history of the men’s basketball program at Shaw. Last week SU raised its record to 21-2 and continued its 17-game win streak.  Shaw is 13-0 in the CIAA and 7-0 in the Southern Division.  With its win over Johnson C. Smith on Feb. 13, the Bears clinched the division title.

Stars to watch

Shaw averages 79 points per contest and are led by a senior duo of Malik Alvin and Tony Smith. Alvin averages close to 21 ppg, which is good enough for 16th nationally.  As a team, Shaw is currently sixth in Division II in field goal percentage, hitting 52.5 percent of their shots. Dishing the ball out to Alvin is point guard Smith. Smith is 12th in the nation in assists with six per game. He is also a force on the defensive end, bringing down a team-high 142 rebounds.

Last time against the Hilltoppers

The last time these two teams met was a year ago in an Atlantic Region semifinal with West Liberty defeating Shaw, 98-93. Both teams started the game even as WLU held a one-point lead at the half, 48-47. But the Hilltoppers were able to pull away, little by little, as the Bears never had a second half lead.

Should WLU keep an eye out for them?

Absolutely. Shaw is not the No. 9 team in the nation for nothing. This team has the capability to keep up with the Hilltopper on offense. It will be WLU’s defense that win’s this matchup if the two should face off in the tournament.

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Taking a look around the region

The NCAA Divison II Regional men’s basketball rankings were released on Wednesday with West Liberty holding the number one spot in the Atlantic Region. The region is made up of teams from the WVIAC, CIAA, and PSAC.

Here’s a look at how the rest of the region plays out:

NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Rankings
(Through games of Sunday, Feb. 12)
1. West Liberty (22-1, 21-1)
2. Shaw (NC) (20-2, 19-2)
3. Charleston (19-5, 19-4)
4. Alderson-Broaddus (17-5, 17-5)
5. Bowie State (MD) (19-4, 18-4)
6. Indiana, Pa. (18-4, 17-4)
7. Winston-Salem State (NC) (17-5, 15-5)
8. Wheeling Jesuit (16-7, 16-7)
9. W.Va. Wesleyan (15-6, 15-6)
10. Mercyhurst (PA) (15-7, 15-7)
From now untill the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional tournament begins on March 9, I will preview other teams in the region and tell how they may fair against the Hilltoppers.
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The good, the bad and the ugly

There are many things to take away from the No. 2-ranked Hilltoppers 84-73 victory against West Virginia State on Thursday.

First, the good.

With the win, West Liberty (24-1, 19-0) is now the only school in Division II to have one loss. No. 1 Bellarmine was upset by No. 11 Southern Indiana 75-72 on Thursday. That means that if WLU can win its game against Glenville State on Saturday (which it should do with flying colors), the Hilltoppers should be the No. 1 team in nation when the polls are released Tuesday morning. West Liberty held down the No. 1 spot for several weeks last season as a senior-laden lineup reeled off 33 straight wins.

Now, the bad.

Thursday night’s victory came with a price. Junior forward Chris Morrow  fell heavily to the court after a flagrant foul by WVSU’s Robbie Lewis with only a few minuets left to play. Morrow remained on the court while being treated by the Hilltopper training staff before being helped off the floor. He watched the final few seconds from the sidelines with ice packs on his right shoulder and left knee. Athletic Director Jim Watson said he couldn’t release information on the injury in detail but reports that Morrow is day-to-day.

Finally, the ugly.

West Liberty came into the game shooting 51% from the floor but only connected on 44% of their shots on Thursday. This let the Yellow Jackets (12-11, 10-9) hang around for the whole game.  The two teams were tied at 43 when the halftime buzzer sounded and neither team lead by more than double figures untill within the final four minuets of the game. The Hilltoppers were able to turn a 72-68 lead into a 83-68 by hitting 11-of-13 from the charity stripe.

WLU, the nation’s leader in free throw percentage, maybe got a little bit lucky with this win. The game was defiantly closer than what the score dictates and the Hilltoppers must realize that there is a target on their back. They have to bring the same energy and intensity to ever game and not just judge a team by their record. On any given Sunday? How about on any given Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday?  West Liberty is a better team then that and they know it. Now they must prove in when they welcome Glenville State (6-17, 5-14) to the ASRC on Saturday.

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