College Basketball: Livingstone loses in regionals, 127-89
By Mike London
Livingstone’s trip to the Atlantic Regional ended in the first round with a lopsided 127-89 loss to West Liberty on Saturday.
Playing on its home floor, the top-seeded West Virginia school showed why it’s a perennial contender for the NCAA Division II national championship.
West Liberty, which has won four straight Atlantic Regionals and was Division II runner-up a year ago, blew out the eighth-seeded CIAA champions with a sizzling offensive performance.
The Hilltoppers (27-3) shot 70.3 percent from the floor and was 15-for-27 on 3-pointers.
“They did a tremendous job and they shot the ball at an amazing rate,” Livingstone coach James Stinson said in a phone interview. “We tried to run them off the 3-point line, but a lot of times we over-helped. They just did a great job of sucking our defense in and then kicking to shooters. You go down their stat sheet, and it’s 8-for-10 and 7-for-7 and 6-for-6 and on and on.”
Livingstone’s own stat sheet was less ugly than you might expect. The Blue Bears (19-10) didn’t shoot 3-pointers (6-for-20) or free throws (17-for-27) quite as well as usual, but they shot 50.8 percent from the field, didn’t have an unusual amount of turnovers and limited West Liberty to five offensive rebounds.
“Against a lot of teams, we would’ve won,” Stinson said. “We scored 89, and that’s often enough. Most of our numbers were our normal numbers.”
Seger Bonifant scored 24 points and Devin Hoehn had 21 for the Hilltoppers.
Eric Dubose (15), Ty Newman (14), Hakeem Jackson (13) and Daryl Traynham (13) scored in double figures for the Blue Bears.
Four minutes into the game, Livingstone trailed 15-13. Ninety seconds later the Blue Bears were down 23-13.
With 8:50 left in the first half, the Blue Bears were still in the game, down 34-23, but West Liberty’s Hilltoppers were on fire from long range for the rest of the half. By intermission, the Blue Bears were down, 65-40.
“We took some ill-advised shots,” Stinson said. “There were times we beat pressure, but we took a quick 3-pointer instead of attacking the rim, and that’s not us. We used our timeouts, but they’d come out of the timeout, execute and make another 3-pointer. They’re a very well-coached team.”
West Liberty hit 10 3-pointers in the first half.
The big halftime deficit forced Livingstone to do things it really didn’t want to do after the break. The Blue Bears had to try fullcourt pressure defensively and that made the tempo even quicker.
“We wanted to play the game in the 80s, and it got into the hundreds for them,” Stinson said.
Livingstone shot 54.5 percent from the floor after halftime, but never got back into the game. West Liberty never cooled off and shot a torrid 21-for-28 (75 percent) in the second half.
“Going into it, we had a good feeling, so it was a disappointing showing,” Stinson said. “We’re humbly apologetic to our conference, our school and the Salisbury community because we were representing those people. This was a big letdown.”
Livingstone won its second straight CIAA championship and reached the Atlantic Regional for the third straight year, but the Blue Bears haven’t gotten over that first-round regional hump. They lost by one point in the first round last season, so a 38-point loss was hard to swallow.
“”We have built a competitive program, but we can no longer say we’re happy just getting to the regional,” Stinson said. “We have to do a better job at this level and we have to find a way to get past the first round.”
Dubose 15, Newman 14, Jackson 13, Traynham 13, Mayo 9, Williams 7, De. Johnson 5, Cole 4 , Harris 3, Flint 2, Wilson 2, M. Johnso 2, Henry.
West Liberty (127)
Bonifant 24, Hoehn 21, Hester 14, Smith 13, Arnold 13, Faithfull 11, French 9, Kirkbride 7, Lococo 7, Lamberti 6, Grossenbacher 2.
Livingstone 40 49 — 89
West Liberty 65 62 — 127