CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston and West Virginia State sure picked the wrong time to get in the way of No. 1 West Liberty.
After the Hilltoppers (14-1 overall, 13-1 Mountain East Conference) were toppled for the first time last Thursday by Notre Dame College, the Golden Eagles (Saturday) and the Yellow Jackets (Monday) were first in line to bear the brunt of West Liberty's frustration.
West Liberty blasted the two schools by a combined 52 points, culminating in a 105-85 triumph Monday in Institute.
Hilltoppers coach Jim Crutchfield said the loss to Notre Dame may have been exactly what his team needed.
"We bank on our intensity level and you can scream all you want that you're not playing hard enough, but when you're 16-0, it's hard to convince someone that the door is open," Crutchfield said Monday. "It had been open for a while. I hate to lose, but the bottom line is, it was a little bit of a wakeup call and sometimes they need that more than me yelling at them all the time. In the Charleston game and this one we opened up with a better level of intensity."
After a brief stretch in which the Yellow Jackets (7-11, 4-11) won four out of five games, State has now lost its last five, and coach Bryan Poore admitted that time is not his team's friend.
"We're not there," Poore said. "We haven't really found ourselves yet and time is running out. Hopefully we can get some momentum here and try to find a win and build off that."
But even after watching his team run roughshod over Kanawha County's representation in the MEC, Crutchfield said State is a lot closer to a turnaround than it might appear.
"What is today, Monday? Then Thursday [State's next game]," Crutchfield said, referring to when the Jackets could turn things around. "I've always said that about a lot of people. They're always closer than they think they are. You're closer to winning than you think you are and you're closer to losing than you think you are. We had a good lead, went a little soft, and they didn't fold the tents. They did a good job of saying, 'Hey, we're not going away.' "