CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The last time the nationally-ranked West Liberty University men's basketball team was at the University of Charleston, the Hilltoppers began the three-hour trip back to the Northern Panhandle with just their third regular-season loss in the last 105 games.
There were 55 fouls whistled in that game -- their last West Virginia Conference meeting at Eddie King Gym --- resulting in the Golden Eagles shooting 55 free throws and making 40, compared to a 13-of-24 showing from the Hilltoppers.
The 101-96 loss is certainly fresh on the minds of the returning West Liberty players, who will be at Eddie King Gym to face the undefeated Golden Eagles (3-0) in their Mountain East Conference opener at 4 p.m. Saturday. The Hilltoppers are third in the National Association of Basketball Coaches' NCAA Division II rankings.
Across Kanawha County at Fleming Hall, Wheeling Jesuit (0-1) will face West Virginia State (1-0) in another MEC opener.
West Liberty, under Coach Jim Crutchfield, hasn't seemed to miss a beat despite the loss of three 1,000-point scorers from its NCAA Division II Elite Eight team from last season. The Hilltoppers average 116 points per game and are coming off a 141-105 win over Point Park (Pa.) in a game West Liberty made a school-record 29 3-pointers and attempted 113 shots overall.
Senior guard Cedric Harris leads six double-figure scorers for West Liberty with 18.3 points per game. He also averaged 7.3 assists a contest.
First-year UC Coach Dwaine Osborne is off to a hot start, with the Golden Eagles winning their first three games by an average of 6.7 points, including a five-point overtime decision at Slippery Rock.
Marshall University transfer Xavier Humphrey is the only UC player in double digits, averaging 16.7 points, although four others average at least eight points per game.
The Golden Eagles return two players who participated in last year's five-point win over West Liberty - Humphrey and Fred Simpson.