West Liberty Men’s Basketball ranked 7th in the Nation

The West Liberty University Men’s basketball team continues on with their strong season, a year that has featured a season high 10-game winning streak, which has been good for an overall record of 17-2. To recap, the Hilltoppers began their season ranked 7th in the country for Division II, mainly due to their returning cast from last season, in which the team made a deep postseason tournament run into the Elite Eight. Notable returners for the black and gold include the likes of Bryce Butler, Pat Robinson, Malik Mckinney and Will Yoakum, who looks to debut this season after recovering from a knee injury that sidelined him for the majority of last season.

West Liberty provided a statement win in their first game of the season, defeating Winston-Salem State University by the final score of 104-82. During the 100th career win for Ben Howlett, 2020-21 All-MEC selection Pat Robinson led the scoring with 22 points. West Liberty began the season 4-0, which included a win against Mountain East foe Alderson Broaddus. They soon ran into trouble against Notre Dame College, which ultimately resulted in an upset for the Falcons over the Hilltoppers. The game was quite the back and forth tilt, featuring seven lead changes. Down by a point with seven seconds left in the game, the Hilltoppers had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but the shot by Christian Montague could not fall, giving the Hilltoppers their first loss in conference play.

West Liberty answered flawlessly by winning their next ten games in a row. The winning streak included a massive win against the University of Charleston on Dec. 8, 2021. After the first half, Charleston went into the locker room holding on to a 48-44 lead, and shot a staggering 60% from the floor. The Golden Eagles eventually simmered out though, and were outscored by fifteen points in the second half, eventually falling to the Hilltoppers by the final score of 89-78. For West Liberty, this was a massive victory for the team at this point of the season that continued to propel them upwards.

Their next big test was a top 20 matchup against the 18th ranked Fairmont State Falcons. For West Liberty, the game began with a fifteen point lead into the locker room at halftime. West Liberty held an impressive 77-58 lead with thirteen minutes left in the game. However, Fairmont State began to finally hit their mark, and came storming back in surprising fashion to stun and ultimately upset West Liberty. Much like a couple opponents West Liberty has faced in close games this year, Fairmont State shot an incredible 63% clip from the floor in the second half of the game. With over 6 out of ten shots finding their way for a score, West Liberty saw a massive lead slip from their fingers.

Although it was a tough pill to swallow, West Liberty has bounced back yet again, and continues to find wins throughout the Mountain East Conference. It was quite the feat to be as impressive as the team was last year, but this West Liberty team in particular is continuing to show their dominance as a top-10 team in the nation. With the season in its final third, West Liberty looks to finish strong, aiming their focus on the conference tournament and regional tournament, with the ultimate goal of bringing a championship back to the Hilltop. Even with a couple falters, this team still reigns one of the most premier programs in the country, as Head Coach Ben Howlett and his team show it game after game.