WVC basketball: West Liberty avenges loss, downs UC
WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. - The University of Charleston men's basketball team finds itself in an uncomfortable position: the likely need to win the rest of its regular season games and go deep in the West Virginia Conference Tournament to advance to its second consecutive NCAA Division II Atlantic Region tourney.
The Golden Eagles couldn't match the magic they had almost a month ago at Eddie King Gym, dropping a 95-77 decision to nationally ranked West Liberty on Monday night before a crowd of 1,198 at the Academic, Sports and Recreation Complex.
It's the fifth loss in the past eight games for UC (15-7, 11-7), which claimed a 101-96 victory over then-No. 1 West Liberty (23-1, 17-1), back on Jan. 14. That defeat dropped the Hilltoppers to fourth in the National Association of Basketball Coaches Top 25 Poll, where they since have moved back to third.
"If we win out (in the regular season), I think it might be enough to get us in the NCAAs with the win we have over West Liberty," said point guard Terrell Lipkins, who had 20 points for Charleston.
The Golden Eagles kept it close in the first half, trailing by two at halftime when they shot 55.2 perecent and hit 5-of-11 3-pointers.
West Liberty Coach Jim Crutchfield said UC was patient with its matchups, but added that his team stepped up its second-half defense.
"They were taking us off the dribble the first half," Crutchfield said. "They were attacking when they were supposed to be attacking. In the second half I thought we were a little bit better at keeping them from getting to the basket in their halfcourt set."
The Hilltoppers led on the boards in the first half 20-17, which included a 9-3 advantage on the offensive boards. West Liberty, which won on the boards 44-40 in the first meeting, had 12 more (43-31) than UC in the second meeting.
West Liberty also had five double-figure scorers, led by senior All-American Alex Falk, who finished with 25 points, six rebounds and three steals without a turnover. The Hilltoppers had just seven turnovers.
Chris Morrow had 19 points and 14 rebounds and Tim Hausfeld, C.J. Hester and Shawn Dyer had 10 points apiece.
Quincy Washington came off the bench to lead Charleston with 26 points on 7-of-9 shooting and 11-of-14 performance from the free throw line. All told, the Golden Eagles were 18-of-27 from the foul line, compared to 40-of-55 in the first meeting.
"We had to execute our game plan tonight on their floor than we would have at our place," UC Coach Mark Downey said. "We missed open guys."
The Golden Eagles finished with only eight assists, while West Liberty finished with 19, led by Cedric Harris with six.
"For the most part our halfcourt defense in the second half was key to the win," Crutchfield said.
UC gets back in action on Thursday at home against Bluefield State, while West Liberty visits Fairmont State on Saturday in a battle of first and second place in the WVC.
Thursday begins an important stretch for UC, which can't afford many more slips in its quest to return to the Atlantic Region.
"I don't think we have to win the conference tournament to make the NCAAs ... yet," Downey said. "I don't think we can afford to lose again in the regular season and I think we have to go deep in the tournament."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.