Nov. 24 - WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – The Bethany men’s basketball team led Division II West Liberty State eight minutes into their game Monday night, but the Hilltoppers used a huge run late in the half to grab the momentum and pull away for a 99-74 triumph on the first night of the Wendy’s Classic.
As they’ve done in their first three games, BC (2-2) was hot from the arc at the start. Senior Tyler Morando (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Central) buried three in the first four minutes and junior Joe Testa (Amity, Pa./Trinity) knocked down a pair of treys, including one that banked in to give Bethany a 19-18 lead. Following a West Liberty bucket, freshman guard Lance Beckwith (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God Christian Academy) answered with a jumper to put the Bison back in front 21-20 with 12 minutes to play before halftime.
Unfortunately for BC, the Hilltopper pressure defense and transition offense took off at that point. The highest scoring Division II team in the nation the last two years, West Liberty forced 16 Bison turnovers in the final 12 minutes of the half, as they outscored their guests 30-8 the rest of the period to construct a 50-29 halftime lead. After their hot start, Bethany cooled off from the arc, as they finished the half 5-of-18. Meanwhile, the ‘Toppers knocked down 51 percent (22-43) from the field in the opening 20 minutes and turned the 22 Bethany turnovers into 33 points..
In the second half, Bethany would shoot better (17-36) and grabbed 15 offensive rebounds, which helped them keep up with the hosts’ scoring pace. But the deficit was too great, as the Bison never moved closer than 18 in the second half.
Bethany finished with four scorers in double digits, led by Testa with 15 markers and Morando with 14. Sophomore Dakota Matz (Zanesville, Ohio) finished with 12 points, six assists and three steals, while freshman Tobi Akinsola (Cary, N.C./Word of God Christian Academy), who was a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor, finished with a dozen points and seven rebounds.
The Hilltoppers were led by their starting backcourt, as Ben Howlett recorded 20 and Corey Pelle fired in 19.
The Bison will return to West Liberty Tuesday night for the second night of the Wendy’s Classic. BC will take on Ohio University-Eastern at 6 p.m. OUE dropped a 107-55 decision to Wheeling Jesuit in Monday’s opening game of the Classic.