A team effort sent the West Liberty men’s basketball team past the University of Charleston and to a wider lead at the top of the Mountain East Conference standings Sunday.
Four Hilltoppers scored in double figures to counteract UC guard Drew Rackley’s game-high 33 points and give WLU an 89-79 win over the Golden Eagles at West Liberty.
Pat Robinson III scored 22 points for the Hilltoppers (18-4, 13-3 MEC), while Will Yoakum scored 17. West Liberty is now two games up on Charleston (17-5, 11-5 MEC) for the MEC lead.
The Golden Eagles kept things close for much of the first half, but the Hilltoppers were able to pull away late. UC fell behind 12-5 at the 16:57 mark of the first half on a Yoakum 3-pointer, but the Golden Eagles stormed back to take the lead midway through the first.
Over the next 5:22 of game time, Charleston outscored West Liberty 16-5. Lamont McManus’ jumper in the paint at the 11:35 mark gave UC a 21-17 advantage. Yet when the Hilltoppers regained the lead about a minute later, they never gave it back.
Yoakum’s layup at 10:32 in the first put WLU ahead 22-21. West Liberty pushed that lead to as many as 10 in the first and walked into halftime with a 44-37 lead.
In the second half, West Liberty led by as many as 14. The last time UC was able to cut the lead to single digits was when Rackley’s layup with 1:32 left made it 84-75, West Liberty.
West Liberty’s win snapped a two-game losing streak to UC, which had won three of the previous four games against the Hilltoppers. Charleston started last week at No. 25 in the national Division II top 25, though that ranking likely is imperiled after falling to No. 23 West Liberty on Sunday and Wheeling on Wednesday.
The Golden Eagles will try to get back on the winning track at home Wednesday versus Davis & Elkins.