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MEC Tournament: 'Hungry' UC women hand West Liberty worst tournament loss since 1995

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- University of Charleston women's basketball coach Adam Collins called his team "hungry" entering its Mountain East Conference Tournament semifinal against West Liberty.

Their appetite for victory was satisfied wholly with a dominating 76-49 rout of the Hilltoppers (20-10) in Saturday's first semifinal contest  at the Charleston Civic Center.

The win sends UC (21-7) into Sunday's 1 p.m. championship game against top-seeded Glenville, which defeated West Virginia State 103-75 in the other semifinal.

While West Liberty scored 16 of the first 21 points of the second half, UC's hot start was too much to overcome.

A 44-17 halftime lead was spurned by a 6-of-7 performance from the 3-point line and an 0-9 first-half showing from long range for the Hilltoppers, who came into the game with the league's second-most 3s. West Liberty didn't reach double figures in points until the 7:19 mark.

"I thought we played phenomenally in the first half," said Collins, whose team handed West Liberty its worst conference tournament loss since the Hilltoppers dropped an 81-54 decision to Salem-Teikyo in the 1996 West Virginia Conference title game. "We also played pretty darn well the last 12 minutes of the game.

"This team doesn't want to think about losing at all because they're awfully tough to beat when they do what they're supposed to do."

Point guard Chyress Lockhart had 20 points to lead UC and 10 Golden Eagles scored. Kali Cuttaia had 12 points and Kiara Johnson added 10 for the Golden Eagles. Nichole Perry had nine points, eight rebounds and three steals and Monet Saunders had eight rebounds for UC, which owned a 39-29 advantage on the boards.

"We had good looks and a lot of it was that they lost us a couple times," Perry said of UC's 3-point shooting. We knew we would play well. We just wanted to come out and wanted to win."

The Hilltoppers hit two 3-pointers in 23 attempts for the game.

"I'm very disappointed," said West Liberty coach Lynn Ullom, whose team is seventh in the Atlantic Region rankings. "I would've never envisioned it would play out the way it played out."

Liz Flowers had 20 points and five rebounds for West Liberty and Kierra Simpson finished with 12 rebounds, despite foul trouble.

Ullom said the emphasis on hand-checking in the backcourt put his team on its heels and the officials in a precarious position.

"The game isn't basketball anymore," said Ullom, who is in his 23rd season at West Liberty. "The hand check puts an incredible amount of pressure on the officials. If a kid gets one or two it doesn't affect the game. Now, you're calling every tick-tack foul. I think we put them in a horrible, horrible position."

The University of Charleston entered the game 10th in the Atlantic Region rankings. The top eight teams earn a berth in the NCAA Division II Tournament. The rankings will be announced on Sunday night.


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