WLU Men’s Basketball sweeps Atlantic Region Crossover: Howlett nets 100th win

On Friday, Nov. 12West Liberty was able to successfully defend the Athletic Sports and Recreational Complex (ASRC) on the Hilltop, with a 104-82 win against Winston Salem State University. Not only is a win on opening night special, but it is even more impactful considering the milestone win it was for Hilltopper Head Coach Ben Howlett. After the win against Winston Salem State, Howlett entered the 100 win club, which is even more impressive considering this milestone was reached in only 118 games. With a 100-18 record, Howlett became one of the fastest NCAA Division II head coaches to eclipse the milestone.

As far as the game is concerned, the number 7/14 ranked Hilltoppers erupted for an incredible start in the first half, taking a 14-4 lead into the first media timeout. This eruption continued, as the lead was extended to as many as 23 nearing the conclusion of the first half, with the first half score eventually being logged at a 52-35 advantage for West Liberty. Winston Salem State attempted to mount a comeback, but it was to no avail, as WLU leading scorer Pat Robinson III (22 points, 9-19 FG), muscled his team over a hump for a 104-82 victory. Also contributing mightily in the score column was Bryce Butler (14 points, 4-9 FG), and Malik Mckinney (14 points, 4-7 FG).

Transitioning onto the second of two games for the Hilltoppers’ opening weekend double header, West Liberty competed against East Stroudsburg University, a team in which went 20-9 last season and fell to Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the semi-finals of the PSAC Tournament. To open the game on Nov. 13, East Stroudsburg came out of the gates firing, in which it appeared as if the team could not miss from any area of the field, extending a lead to as much as 13-5. The high volume offense was not consistent throughout the entirety of the game, however, as the Hilltoppers managed to take command and possess a 52-45 lead at half.

There were stretches in what had appeared to be signs of life to spark a comeback for East Stroudsburg, in the end the Hilltoppers were too much to handle, as the black and gold successfully defended the ASRC once again with a 108-93 final, marking a 2-0 opening weekend finish for the team. Robinson once again led the Hilltoppers in scoring with high value efficiency, masking 30 points on 10-15 shooting. The next duo of contributors were Butler with 18 points on 7-12 shooting, and Zach Rasile, who exploded for the first time this year with 16 points on 6-9 shooting. West Liberty will ride this momentum of opening weekend forward, as they battle the University of Pittsburgh Johnstown to close their out of conference opening season matchups Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. From there, West Liberty will begin conference play with back-to-back games against Alderson Broaddus University on Nov. 20, and Notre Dame College on Nov. 23.