Justin McCarthur and Dustin Sleva started hot and stayed that way throughout the primetime matchup with West Liberty. McCarthur would lead all players with 33 points hitting three’s from all over the court. When the Toppers would finally get to him, the mismatch of Sleva underneath was too much. West Liberty shot poorly early which led to a deficit they could not overcome. The final score Shippensburg 98-66.
Coach Ben Howlett was hoping Jordan Watson would step up in this game, and although he would hit for 15, we did not see him start to make that step Until West Liberty was down 20. Senior Dan Monteroso went for 17 but just could not do enough to keep his guys in the game.
The 6’8” senior Dustin Sleva gave the Hilltoppers fits and because they were forced to double him up. By doing so, that left Shippensburg guard Justin McCarthur wide open time and again and he converted from nearly everywhere on the court. Justin converted 8-12 from the field, 7 of those shots were from 3. He also made 10-13 from the charity stripe. The foul differential was an issue for West Liberty throughout the game.
The Hilltoppers would get to within 10 or 12 points a couple of times, but everytime Shippensburg would make a big three and hit another gear. The final score in Virginia, Shippensburg 98 West Liberty 66.
It was a disappointing end to the season, and although West Liberty went to the NCAA tournament yet again, they were not able To advance. The Mountain East Conference in general had a tough weekend as both the Hilltoppers and Wheeling Jesuit would fall. Although the Cardinals Led for more than half the game and then hung close to the end. West Liberty on the other hand, left their best basketball in the regular season.
I know coach was adamant that they just ran into some good teams, which is true. They also got away from doing what they do best because of poor shooting. At the beginning of the season, Coach Howlett told me their defense is what creates the their offense. But I contest, This season was a bit different for them. The game against Shippensburg was a snapshot of every RECENT loss they have had.
Their great shooting allowed that defense to cause trouble for teams. When they could not shoot, or struggled shooting, the defense was much easier to go through. Big holes began to form in their press which forced them to because of that they were forced to play much more zone then they ever would want.