The No. 1-ranked West Liberty University men's basketball team finished off the first semester with a flourish Tuesday night, blasting Cedarville, 132-86, before a near-sellout crowd at the ASRC.
Coach Jim Crutchfield's Hilltoppers (8-0) never trailed but the visiting Yellow Jackets (1-8) managed to keep things interesting in the early going.
Cedarville was able to beat the West Liberty pressure for some easy hoops at the start but, as is so often the case, it didn't take long for the Hilltopper press to take its toll.
The visitors were still within range, trailing just 22-19 with 12:46 left in the half, when WLU started to break things open.
Kelvin Goodwin's third 3-pointer of the night ignited a blurry-fast 23-3 West Liberty surge that turned a one-possession game into a 45-22 laugher with 7:11 still showing on the first-half clock as a series of Yellow Jacket turnovers fed the scoring frenzy.
"Our press got better as the half went along and I think it was a combination of things," Crutchfield said. "Part of it was our guys executed better but a big part of it was that we kept rotating fresh guys in and out.
"Our bench has given us a lift in just about every game this year. Sometimes they're able to come in for the starters and turn up the heat even a little bit more. When the starters come back in fresh, things really seem to take off. That's happened a couple of times this season and I think it was a big part of what we saw tonight."
The Hilltoppers led by as many as 37 points in the first half before settling for a 69-37 bulge at intermission. Cedarville scrapped its way back within 23 points, 71-48, in the early minutes of the second half but West Liberty cut in the afterburners again.
With the reserves on the floor coming down the stretch, the hosts pushed the lead as high as 49 points – 130-81 – before putting the wraps on an undefeated first semester.
All five starters hit double figures for the Hilltoppers. Shawn Dyer and Cedric Harris led the way with 22 and 21 points, respectively. C.J. Hester added 18 points and Goodwin drained 5 3-pointers to finish with 18 points, as well. Seger Bonifant and Keene Cockburn had 14 and 13 points, respectively, with Devin Hoehn tossing in 11.
Marcus Reineke had a game-high 24 points in a losing cause for Cedarville.
"I think you'd have to say we had a good first semester," Crutchfield said. "We're undefeated, all the guys are healthy and we're ranked No. 1 in the country. We like where we're at but there's still an awfully long way to go."
West Liberty won't play again until Jan. 4 when the Hilltoppers host Concord in a 4 p.m. game at the ASRC.