The No. 2-ranked West Liberty University men's basketball team took control early and never looked back Monday night in sprinting off to a 128-69 blowout of West Virginia State in Mountain East Conference action at the ASRC.
It was the 55th consecutive league win at home for Coach Jim Crutchfield's Hilltoppers (5-0, 2-0), who got off to a bit of a slow start by their standards but wasted little time cutting in the afterburners.
"We didn't start well," Crutchfield said, "but I thought our first rotation was the key to the game. Kelvin (Goodwin) and Devin (Hoehn) gave us a big spark off the bench with their shooting and energy while Mike (Lamberti) and Zak (Kirkbride) cleaned things up defensively in the paint.
"Those guys got it rolling and it just snowballed from there."
From West Virginia State's perspective, that snowball got very big in a very big hurry.
West Liberty was actually looking up from the wrong end of a 9-5 score following a 3-pointer by State's Juan Johnson at the 15:50 mark but the Yellow Jacket lead proved to be short-lived.
After Keene Cockburn drained a jumper and Goodwin followed with a 3-point bomb that put the hosts ahead to stay, 10-9, with 15:08 on the clock, the Hilltoppers were off to the races.
The lead reached double-figures, 23-13, on a Cockburn layup at the 12:07 mark and pushed past the 20-point mark, 38-17, on a Hoehn 3-pointer with 8:34 remaining.
Leading 44-21 after a pair of free throws by State's Anton Hutchins with 5:14 on the clock, West Liberty found yet another gear and the snowball became an avalanche.
Lamberti's 3-pointer as the clock ticked past the 5-minute mark ignited a blurry-fast 26-1 spurt that was capped by a snappy little jump hook in the lane from Hoehn for a 70-22 lead with 1:47 still to go in the opening half.
West Liberty settled for a 73-28 halftime lead and led by as many as 68 points while coasting to the finish line in the second half.
The Hilltoppers finished with 21 3-point field goals, 21 2-point field goals, 23 assists and 57 rebounds while holding the Yellow Jackets to 32 percent shooting (24-of-74) and forcing 26 turnovers.
"We just try to take what the other team gives us," Crutchfield said when asked about the even split between 2-point baskets and 3-pointers. "They started out in a zone so it seemed like we had a lot of chances to drive the lane and kick the ball out for 3-point shots, especially in the first half.
"The system worked. We made good passes, we moved well without the ball and I thought we shared the ball extremely well. If you do all those things, you should be able to get some good shots and we have a lot of guys who can shoot the basketball."
Hoehn, a redshirt freshman, was 5-for-5 from the 3-point arc and 6-for-6 from the floor for 17 first-half points. He finished with a game-high 26 points – on 9-of-11 shooting – despite playing only 20 minutes off the bench.
He didn't lack for company in the scoring column as all 12 Hilltoppers made at least one shot from the floor. Goodwin added 17 points and 6 rebounds in just 21 minutes while Cockburn finished with 17 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocks. Seger Bonifant had 15 points, C.J. Hester weighed in with 14 points and 8 rebounds and Shawn Dyer picked up a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Hutchins had 24 points for West Virginia State.
West Liberty will be idle over the Thanksgiving holiday before returning to action on Dec. 5 with a 7:30 p.m. game at Notre Dame (OH).