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Panthers Set to Play West Liberty Hilltoppers

EVANSVILLE, Ind. -- You can tell with just one look at practice that this West Liberty team likes to shoot the ball from all over the floor and beyond the three-point line.
EVANSVILLE, Ind. -- You can tell with just one look at practice that this West Liberty team likes to shoot the ball from all over the floor and beyond the three-point line.

"Everybody gets caught up in how well we shoot the basketball and that's what we try to do is run and gun,” says Cedric Harris, West Liberty Guard. “But it's mainly our defense, that's how we put so many points on the board."

The Hilltoppers lead the nation, averaging 100 points per game.

West Liberty has scored 100 or more 18 times this season, including 30 made three-pointers in a win in late January.

"I think we have a good shooting basketball team,” says West Liberty Coach Jim Crutchfield. “I think that's one of our strengths. The hard part then, when you face a team like Drury, who's a great defensive team, is getting clean looks."

First team All-American Cedric Harris leads the Hilltoppers averaging 18 points per game and is one of seven West Liberty players averaging double figures.

Drury leads the nation in allowing the fewest points.

“Yeah something definitely has to give,” says Harris. “We looked at Drury and honestly they're the best team we've seen so far. Defensively they're all mature and all have IQ's for the game of basketball. It's going to be tough. It's going to be a tough challenge for us. But we're up for it."

It's not all scoring for West Liberty; the Hilltoppers also employ a stifling, intense full court press defense.

The combination has resulted in four straight Elite Eight appearances for this West Virginia team, but it hasn't been easy.

"We lost some key players from last year,” says Crutchfield. “We lost three 1,000-point scorers, and one was the national player of the year, and replaced them in-house. We had guys who stepped up and player bigger roles this year. I know Drury is very similar to that, too. I think that will be a great game."

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