WEST LIBERTY - Darrell Brooks and his No. 8-seeded Bowie State squad came into the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II tournament at the ASRC as one of the hottest teams in the region. The Bulldogs had reeled off seven straight victories and captured the CIAA tournament title with double-digit victories against two nationally ranked opponents.
However, the hottest team in the region ran right into the hottest team in the country. The end result was a 114-82 loss to the hands of the No. 1-ranked West Liberty Hilltoppers.
''They're obviously the No. 1 team in country for a reason,'' Brooks said. ''They're the best offensive team that we've played in my four years at Bowie State. What they do, they do it well. I was really, really impressed up front and in person playing against them.''
West Liberty’s Tim Hausfeld (10) drives past Bowie State’s Ray Gatling (1) and Carlos Smith (20) on Saturday night.
West Liberty University Photo by Hillary Southworth
The Bulldogs (16-14) went blow-for-blow with the top-seeded Toppers (31-1) for the first nine minutes and held a slight advantage at 21-20 before the game's first media timeout was called. However, following the timeout, it seemed the only team that returned to the court was West Liberty as it rolled through Bowie State with a 30-10 run and gathered a 25-point lead at halftime, 66-41, that left Brooks scratching his head.
''I looked up and we were up 21-18. Then I looked up and it was 41 to 20-something,'' Brooks said. ''That's what they do. They're really, really good at it.
''If you get caught up in playing their pace, how they play, they're better at it,'' he continued. ''They are much better at it then you are. That's what happened.''
What also happened was, according to All-Region forward Byron Westmorland, when the Hilltoppers finished the half 15 of 20 from the floor, a sense of panic set in for the Bulldog players, who tried to match WLU bucket for bucket, but simply weren't able to drain their shots at the same rate as the Toppers.
''Yeah it happens and that's not the right thing to do, obviously,'' he said. ''It happens sometimes. It continued to happen a lot in this game.''
After C.J. Hester hit back-to-back layups to start the second half, the sophomore drained a 3-pointer from the right corner and the Hilltoppers never led by less than 28 points.
Atlantic Region Player of the Year Alex Falk finished with 20 points as five Hilltoppers finished in double-digits. Senior Chris Morrow had 19 and Hester added 15 points to go with his seven rebounds.
Shawn Dyer, who continues to become a bigger part of the equation ended his night with 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
''That's what I'm trying to do,'' the redshirt sophomore said. ''Just come in off the bench and provide a spark. Just try to help the team anyway I can.''
All-Region guard Cedric Harris chipped in 10 points in 16 minutes of action, his first since sustaining a shoulder injury that has kept the junior off the court for a month.
''He played extremely well,'' Crutchfield said of Harris. ''We've been off for two weeks, Cedric's been off for pushing a month now. But it never showed. He looked good with the ball, playing good defense and just picked up where he left off. That's what we were hoping for.''
As a team, the Hilltoppers finished 40 of 60 from the floor (67 percent) and 12 of 22 from 3-point range (55 percent).
''When you shoot the ball that well, it solves a lot of problems that you might accure,'' Crutchfield said. ''But we didn't have a lot of problems (Saturday).
''Overall, we played a really good game. We've been off a couple weeks, I'm just happy we came out of the blocks playing well. I though we played 40 good minutes.''
Westmorland led Bowie State with 19 points, while Najee White finished with 13.
With Fairmont State's 91-73 victory against Livingstone in the nightcap, a rematch of the West Virginia Conference championship game is set as the Falcons and Hilltoppers are scheduled to square off for the fourth time this season at 7:30 tonight.