By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
It can be done. On Monday night, the University of Charleston proved that the West Liberty University basketball team could be beaten.
Coming into this afternoon’s game at Concord University, the Hilltoppers of WLU own a 15-1 record, after their 101-96 loss in Charleston and an 82-77 home win against Fairmont State on Thursday.
The Hilltoppers lead NCAA Division II in scoring offense, averaging 109.6 points per game. Only one other college in the NCAA, Grinnell College in Division III, is putting more points on the board (118.7 per game).
Concord (9-4, 5-4 WVIAC) will be playing its first game since Monday night’s 61-54 win at Davis & Elkins. A Thursday date with Alderson-Broaddus was postponed hours ahead of the snowstorm that descended on Mercer County.
The Mountain Lions, 3-2 at home this season, have won three of their last four contests. In those three wins, Concord has held opponents to an average of 62.7 points on 34.9 percent shooting.
Mike Boyd has been the leading scorer in Concord’s past four games, in which he has averaged 19.8 points and made 52.6 percent of his shots. This season he has provided 54 assists and 14 steals.
Damien Tunstalle leads CU in points per game (16.5) and rebounds (74), and has connected on 31 of 86 three-point attempts.
Nick Ruffin brings a defensive presence off the bench, swatting a team-leading seven blocked shots and weighing in with 48 rebounds in 144 minutes of action this season.
Alex McGlothin averages 18.3 minutes per game and provides 7.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals in his time on the court.
Overall, Concord’s non-starters have outscored their opponents’ bench players in nine of CU’s 13 games.
The Mountain Lions have little room for losses in the last five weeks of the regular season. Concord is currently in fifth place in the standings, staying ahead of a closely-bunched group in the middle of the conference pack.
The Hilltoppers are still the No. 1 team in NCAA Division II, as ranked by the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ poll that took place on Monday prior to West Liberty’s sole loss.
West Liberty, winners of the last three conference crowns, have flourished under coach Jim Crutchfield, who is 222-44 in his head-coaching career.
But on Monday, Charleston forced 20 WLU turnovers and hit almost half of its field-goal tries to put the first blemish on the Hilltoppers’ record.
Three days later, West Liberty had to stage a 12-2 run at the end of Thursday’s game to come out with its five-point win.
In the battle for first place in the league with Fairmont State, WLU’s Cedric Harris had 20 points and Alex Falk had 18 points and nine rebounds. Both are averaging more than 18 points per game. Harris leads West Liberty in assists (80), steals (49) and turnovers (41).
Chris Morrow has 13 blocked shots this season, adding four to his total on Thursday night. C.J. Hester had 148 rebounds.
West Liberty sinks 53.5 percent of its field-goal tries on average, and the Hilltoppers allow 80.2 points per contest. Concord is outscoring opponents 74-72 on average.
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The Concord women (4-11, 3-6 WVIAC) will try to break a two-game losing streak on its home court against the Hilltoppers (9-5, 7-3), a program the Lady Lions have beaten just once in their last 22 matchups.
Jacqueline Kestner has provided Concord a scoring boost in recent games, scoring 10, 11 and 15 points in the last three games. She made six of nine floor attempts in the Lady Lions’ 76-62 loss at Davis & Elkins on Monday.
Kestner has 21 steals and 21 assists to go with a team-high 78 rebounds in the current campaign.
Amanda Smith has reached double-digit scoring in 10 of Concord’s 15 games. She averages 13.1 points per game, converting a team-best 46.7 percent of her floor shots.
Rachel Artrip notched career highs with 22 points and five steals off the bench in Elkins.
Stephanie Wagner is the league leader in assist-to-turnover ratio, feeding 63 successful field-goal plays while giving up the ball 28 times in 13 games.
The Lady Lions have stolen the ball 134 times, averaging almost nine per game. Six Concordians have 15 or more steals this season.
Concord turns the ball over 13.2 times per game, least in the West Virginia Conference.
But CU is averaging just 65 points per game while giving up around 70.
The Hilltoppers have lost two of their last three outings but are still third in the conference standings. On Thursday, league-leading Fairmont State visited the WLU gym and left with a 72-63 win.
West Liberty’s Hillary Southworth, the team’s top scorer in its last five games, leads the West Virginia Conference in scoring at 20.9 points a game.
Megan Wiseman is ninth on the league scoring chart at 15.2 points per contest and averages 7.2 rebounds per outing.
West Liberty senior Emily Blevins, a member of three state prep championship teams at Summers County High, returns today to the Concord gym where she played for the Lady Lions in 2009-10.
Both of today’s games will be broadcast on WWNR, AM 620.
— Contact Tom Bone at