By Raissa Wagner, Contributing Writer
The West Liberty University men’s basketball team will be taking on rival Wheeling Jesuit University this weekend in a Mountain East Conference match-up in the ASRC on the West Liberty campus. The game is scheduled to tip-off at 7:30 p.m., on Saturday Jan 26.
The Hilltoppers come into this rivalry weekend with a 13-2 overall record and a 9-1 record in MEC games. With this impressive start to the season, the Hilltoppers find themselves at the top of the conference with Fairmont State also with a 9-1 record in MEC play, but a 12-4 overall record. Wheeling Jesuit is having a down year compared to recent seasons, with an overall record of 2-14 and just 1-9 in MEC games. Last year they finished the season in second place in the MEC with a record of 26-5 overall and a conference record of 18-4.
Last season when these teams battled against each other, The Hilltoppers came out on top when the game was play at Wheeling Jesuit early in the season, but in the final game of the regular season, the Cardinals earned the upset victory in the ASRC. In the first game, the Hilltoppers won in a low scoring 81-78 game. When the Cardinals came to the Hilltop, they were able to get the 84-74 win in another low scoring game. At the time both of these teams were ranked in the nation for their high scoring offenses, so even though they scored 150 points combined, they were considered defensive games.
So far this season, the Hilltoppers are averaging 105.9 points per game through the first 15 games. Dalton Bolon is leading all scored averaging 22 points per game along with his 6.3 rebounds per game. Alongside Bolon, four starters Will Yoakum, Yahel Hill and Eric Meininger are averaging double digits in scoring so far this season. To go with his impressive scoring ability, Meininger leads the team in rebounds with 118, which is 7.9 per game. Sophomore Luke Dyer has started every game for the Hilltoppers at the point guard position, and he leads the team in steals with 30, which is two per game and he is second on the team is assists with 55, just one behind Meininger with 56.
After an impressive 2017-2018 season, the Cardinals lost a few key components to their team. When the season concluded for Wheeling Jesuit, three of their starters, Haywood Highsmith, Pat Moseh and Drake Goodard all graduated and were gone from the program. The Cardinals also took a major hit, when their head coach Danny Sancomb decided to move on from the team and go elsewhere. These are just a few reasons why the Cardinals have a complete opposite record this year compared to last year.
This season, the Cardinals are 2-14, but they have six players averaging ten or more points per game. They are able to score in a variety of ways with their leading scorer averaging just 14.1 points per game. The offense does a good job of sharing the ball and making sure more than one person is scoring, but as a team they are only averaging 78.5 points per game. Kamgain Franck has been the most reliable player for Wheeling Jesuit so far this season, having started all 16 games and leading the team in scoring. Franck also leads the team in steals with 32, and he has played the third most amount of minutes so far.
Wheeling Jesuit scores close to 30 less points per game than West Liberty, but they give up seven fewer points per game. The Hilltoppers allow 93 points per game whereas the Cardinals give up 86 per game. West Liberty is known for their quick scoring ability and they make 52 percent of their field goal attempts and Wheeling Jesuit sits near the bottom of the MEC only making 44 percent of their shots. West Liberty is able to have such a high shooting percentage because of their capability to find the open man and get higher quality shots. The Hilltoppers lead the entire MEC in 3-point field goal percentage with 42 and the Cardinals are at the very bottom of the conference with 33 percent.
The game between West Liberty and Wheeling Jesuit is set to take place on the West Liberty University campus in the ASRC with tip-off scheduled for 7:30 p.m., which is immediately after the conclusion of the women’s game. If you can’t make it to the game, you can listen to the live stream through 91.5 WGLZ or watch it on WLTV-14. Be sure to pick up next weeks issue of the Trumpet for more game previews and player profiles.
Photo Credit: Hilltoppersports.com