Northwest Missouri State University beats Hilltoppers in NCAA Division II basketball tournament 98-77


Hilltopper Sports

Bearcats defeating WLU at the NCAA

The WLU men’s basketball team bowed out in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Division II national tournament last week falling to Northwest Missouri State University 77-98. The tournament took place in Evansville, Indianna and marked the end of an action packed season for the Hilltoppers.

After vigorous battles against adversity and uncertainty within the past year, the 2020-21 season was simply an unforgettable campaign for West Liberty University men’s basketball, and one of which can be used for progression in the upcoming seasons.

In 2019-20, the Hilltoppers ended the season as one of the hottest teams in the country, winning their last ten games on route to a 27-4 record, all while being named the MEC Champions. After the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to West Liberty’s championship hopes, the team would have to wait several months until they could have another crack at it, let alone take another step on the court. Time soon passed and WLU was set to gear up again, in which they eventually found themselves clinching an Elite Eight berth for the first time since the 2015-2016 season.

The route to Evansville, Indiana was no slouch for the Hilltoppers. After a 4-0 start to the season, it appeared as the revenge tour had begun against the rest of the Mountain East Conference. However, WLU soon stumbled, and unprecedentedly fell in their next three games to Concord University, West Virginia State University, and the University of Charleston. Luckily, a nine game winning streak entering the Mountain East Conference Championship helped the team get back on their feet, but not without further bloodshed.

An injury to star WLU guard Will Yoakum was a major blow to the team’s firepower offense, and required alternative players to rise to the occasion. Those players most definitely delivered, as the team clinched a MEC Championship game berth, especially thanks to the late game heroics of Malik McKinney in the conference semifinals. Although the Hilltoppers came up short against Fairmont State University in the conference championship, they had more important goals on their mind regarding the NCAA Tournament.

Once there, the Hilltoppers shined, defeating Malone University and avenging their loss earlier in the season against the University of Charleston. Now in the regional championships, WLU defeated the 20-2 powerhouse in Hillsdale, punching their ticket to Evansville for the NCAA DII Elite Eight.

Although the Hilltoppers lost to the eventual national champions Northwest Missouri State University, the wonders within this season for WLU cannot be ignored. The team overcame hurdles not presented to many, and also will return an incredibly young team for next season. With star guard Dalton Bolon having an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19, the Hilltopppers can pick up right where they left off this year, and may even make a deeper run then before.