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Hilltoppers fall in D-II Championship Game

Updated: Saturday, March 29 2014, 06:58 PM EDT

EVANSVILLE, Ind. – West Liberty was 6 minutes away from reveling the confetti Saturday afternoon when the wheels came off.
As a result, it was No. 20 Central Missouri that was lost in a sea of raining tinsel, not long after the Mulls’ Daylen Robinson was raining 3s, in an 84-77 victory against the No. 7-ranked Hilltoppers in the Division II National Championship Game.
The teams were tied at 68 with 6:05 remaining after a Cedric Harris 3-pointer before a series of WLU turnovers was met a set of big baskets by the Mulls, who won a second title 30 years after their first one.
“I thought it was key for us to get them off the boards,” West Liberty coach Jim Crutchfield said. “I thought we may have to give up some perimeter shots along the way. I was hoping that many shots would not go it.”
They did, with Robinson leading the way. A Division-I transfer from Texas Tech – nearly everyone on the CMU roster transferred in from somewhere – Robinson made big shot after big shot down the stretch. He had a game-best 21 points, including three back-breaking, late-in-the-shot-clock 3-pointers.
When it was all said and done, Robinson summed it up to a T, and West Liberty (31-4) is still in search of its first basketball title, despite making the Final Four 3 of the last 4 years.
“Defense is what won us the game,” Robinson said of his club, which forced WLU into nine second-half turnovers. “We contested every shot at the rim. And we contested every 3. On offense, shots went in. (Dillon) Deck (16 points, five offensive rebounds, 10 defensive) crashed the boards.”
That’s exactly how it went. A concerted defensive effort after halftime meant the Hilltoppers had no room to slash inside after 18 first-half points in the paint.
“We talked about that going into the second half,” CMU coach Kim Anderson said. “With them, you pick your poison, either the 3 or the drive. I felt like the drive would beat us. We said we had to control their penetration. In the first half, we didn’t do a very good job.”
It was a smart move. Harris had 14 points at halftime and wound up with 18.
 “As far as Xs and 0s, they had some guys step up and make some really big shots,” Crutchfield said. “They shot it well and hit the board with a passion. You win games that way.”
So the Hilltoppers will keep trying.
“We’ve based our program on playing with a lot of heart,” Crutchfield said. “It helps you win basketball games when you do that. But when you lose, it’s painful. You put yourself on the line, it’s painful.”
Shawn Dyer scored a team-best 19 points for WLU.


Hilltoppers fall in D-II Championship Game

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