Pre-season All-America guard Cedric Harris had 26 points and the West Liberty University men's basketball team won its 17th consecutive regular season game on Saturday with an 89-76 verdict over the University of Charleston at Eddie King Gym.
The victory avenged a 101-96 defeat to the Golden Eagles (3-1, 0-1 Mountain East Conference) last season which was the only regular season loss for the Hilltoppers (4-0).
West Liberty, the No. 2 team in the National Association of Basketball Coaches Poll, received 18 points from guard Shawn Dyer, 13 points and a game-high 14 rebounds from Keene Cockburn and 12 points and nine boards from C.J. Hester.
West Liberty Coach Jim Crutchfield said his team played its best half of the season in the first half when it got out to a 51-35 advantage. Still, the Hilltoppers -- who averaged 25.67 assists per game entering the contest -- had just six assists, forced only nine turnovers and had a mere three steals.
"We played extremely well the first half," said Crutchfield, who improved his career coaching record to 242-45 with the victory. "We had a couple miscues with the ball, but I thought the pressure was good the first half. We were making shots, which is always good. I thought the level of intensity was strong."
Additionally West Liberty had a 24-13 rebounding edge at halftime and finished the game with a 40-26 advantage on the boards.
Despite the early showing, the Golden Eagles wouldn't go away, cutting the lead to 77-71 with 4:38 remaining. Harris then hit a jumper, followed by a steal by Dyer and two Harris free throws and the Golden Eagles didn't get the lead under 10 again.
"I don't think it was a lack of effort, but I don't think we played quite the way we have up to this point," UC Coach Dwaine Osborne said. "We had some careless turnovers, but some of that is a credit to West Liberty. We were a little streaky in the first half, and we missed 15 shots inside of 5 feet."
Aleksander Kesic led the way for the University of Charleston, hitting on 11 of his 12 attempts from the floor and finishing with 23 points. Osborne isolated Kesic in the post and it paid off. Kesic made his last 10 shots.
Xavier Humphrey had 14 points for Charleston and Denzel Douglas added 10.Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at richstev...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4837.