CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Figuring out how to beat West Liberty is most often a practice in futility, but for a system that plays into the hands of the most dominant team in NCAA Division II's Atlantic Region, it is downright demoralizing.
Such was the case again on Monday night at West Virginia State's Fleming Hall, where the Yellow Jackets dropped their seventh consecutive game to the Hilltoppers 105-85 in their second meeting as Mountain East Conference opponents.
"I see it," West Liberty coach Jim Crutchfield said. "It's not like we're trying to demoralize someone ... maybe we are. But, I know that feeling, especially if they worked really hard for their bucket. Sometimes you work, work, work, next thing you know, the coach is saying 'D up,' the ball is up the sideline and maybe we get an easy one.
"That is demoralizing."
There's no shame in losing to West Liberty (18-1, 14-1 MEC) since Crutchfield's team has lost only four regular season league games since the 2008-09 season and is No. 1 in the National Association of Basketball Coaches NCAA Division II rankings.
Poore's team had failed to be competitive against what had developed as State's biggest rival outside of the Kanawha Valley.
However, the Yellow Jackets (7-11, 4-11) battled back on Monday after trailing 64-34 with 19:24 remaining. Anton Hutchins led five double-figure scorers for State, which held a 51-44 edge in scoring in the final 20 minutes.
"We outscored them in the second half, but Jim called off the press," said Poore, who is the last coach to defeat West Liberty in a conference tournament. "That gave us a little bit of help."
Poore's team won the WVC regular season title (2004, '09) or the tournament crown (2006, '07, '10) five out of seven seasons before giving way to West Liberty's recent dominance, which includes the regular season and tournament titles the final three seasons (2011-13) of the conference's existence.
The first five games of the current West Liberty streak against Poore's team were as opponents of the defunct West Virginia Conference, a league founded in 1924.
Unfortunately for State (7-11, 4-11 MEC), which has lost its fifth straight game, it typically won't relegate itself to playing halfcourt offense - a tact others have used to slow the possession-happy, 3-point shooting, turnover-thriving Hilltoppers.
However, Poore tried something different on Monday.
"We were trying to slow it down and that's out of our kids' character," Poore said. "But, I didn't feel like we could run with them for 40 minutes."