INDIANA, Pa. — Mercyhurst head coach Gary Manchel hoped his Lakers could hold West Liberty’s offense in the 60’s. With the nation’s highest-scoring offense (101.9 points per game), his hope appeared to be a bold statement.
The Lakers nearly backed up Manchel’s belief. The Lakers held the Hilltoppers to a season-low point total, as Mercyhurst claimed the Atlantic Regional title, 82-70. Mercyhurst (26-7) advances to the NCAA Elite Eight next week in Evansville, Indiana. West Liberty’s season ends with a record of 28-5.
Mercyhurst trailed 39-38 at halftime but the Lakers opened the second half on a 12-0 run. MU kept the Hilltoppers in check after halftime, as they made just 10 of 31 shots from the floor.
Mercyhurst entered the game allowing just 60.6 points per game, the second-best total in Division 2. “Win or lose, we wanted to play the way we play and not let a team get us out of our style,” Manchel said.
“I thought we did a really good job of that in the second half.”
‘We didn’t get many easy baskets in the second half,” said West Liberty head coach Ben Howlett. “I thought in the first half we got some easy baskets in transition. But when you are working the ball and you can’t find an easy shot you start pressing. And I think our guys got a little frustrated and tried to do things on their own a little bit.”
Marlon Moore, Jr. led West Liberty with 16 points while Nelson Maxwell and Patrick Smith each scored 16 points for the Lakers. Smith also grabbed 17 rebounds. West Liberty was outrebounded 47-35.
“We have a really young team,” Howlett said. “We’ll be back.”