Trojans Fall at Elite Eight to Top-Ranked West Liberty

AUís Cinderella Run Ends in Springfield

Box Score

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Using a relentless offensive attack, top-ranked and unbeaten West Liberty University defeated Anderson, 113-95, in the 2011 NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Elite Eight Wednesday evening at the MassMutual Center.   

Anderson’s bid to continue its’ Cinderella run through the 2011 NCAA Tournament and reach the Final Four fell shy after having defeated 10th-ranked Lincoln Memorial and third-ranked Augusta State en route to the school’s first-ever Southeast Regional title last week.

The Trojans, who were the first team from the state of South Carolina since Lander in 1999 to claim a regional championship and just the second South Atlantic Conference school to earn a trip to the Elite Eight, had their season end at 21-12, while West Liberty improved to 33-0 and moves on to face the winner of the BYU-Hawaii/Bloomfield game scheduled for later Wednesday night.

Anderson shocked the Hilltoppers by scoring the game’s first 11 points, with senior forward Trey Britton posting the first four points and the final two of the opening outburst. 

Early on, the Trojans went toe-to-toe with the nation’s highest-scoring offense, while the AU defense was stellar, holding the potent WLU offense scoreless for the first four-plus minutes of the contest. Anderson forced seven turnovers and held the Hilltoppers to 4-of-12 shooting, including 0-for-5 from beyond the arc until less than 12 minutes were on the clock.  

AU opened a pair of 14-point leads midway through the opening half, the first coming on a slashing layup by senior guard Kevis Cornwell to give the Trojans a 24-10 lead with 11:58 on the clock. WLU’s Alex Falk hit one of two from the line and John Wolosinczuk connected on a trey to trim AU’s lead to 10, but junior Tyrell McDowell countered with a free throw and a 3-pointer of his own, giving the Trojans a 28-14 advantage.

But missed shots and turnovers proved costly for the Trojans, as West Liberty chipped away, going on a 16-4 run to climb within just a deuce, at 32-30, with 7:40 left in the half.

Anderson maintained the narrow edge held the Hilltoppers off until Alex Falk’s free throw with under five minutes on the clock tied the contest for the first time and with three players in foul trouble the Trojans had difficulty breaking the Hilltoppers’ pressure. A 3-pointer from Jordan Fortney gave the Hilltoppers their first lead, 42-39,  and sparked a late 10-0 run to give WLU a 47-39 lead. 

Junior guard Nick Trull’s 3-pointer from the left corner snapped the outburst and freshman Chris Ross converted a traditional three-point play to pull AU within 52-47 as the teams headed to the locker rooms.

Junior center Taylor Shugart picked up third foul inside the first minute of the second half and the Hilltoppers opened the second frame with a 7-2 run to claim their largest lead of the game to that point, at 59-49, with 18:55 remaining.

Cornwell’s traditional three-point play 22 seconds later pulled within AU within 59-52, but the Hilltoppers countered with six unanswered points to push back to a 13-point cushion. The Atlantic Region champs maintained a double-digit advantage the remainder of the game and opened a 96-69 lead with 8:19 left.

West Liberty shot 56.5 percent from the field, including 47.1 percent from beyond the arc, while Anderson connected on 46.6 percent. The Trojans outscored WLU 56-40 in the paint and tallied 25 second chance points after out-rebounding the Hilltoppers, 44-32 on the night. However, West Liberty converted a season-high 29 AU turnovers into 37 points.   
Freshman guard Denzail Jones led five Trojans in double figures with 20 points on 10-of-11 shooting from the line. Britton chipped in 13 points, while Cornwell and Oskars Ernsteins added 12 points apiece. Senior guard Brandon Young dished out a team-high four assists and Trull recorded a season-high eight rebounds.

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