Dec. 16 WBB vs. Hiram (L, 69-64); Dec. 17 MBB vs. St. John Fisher (L, 79-70); Dec. 31 MBB vs. Ohio Northern (1:00 p.m.)

BETHANY TO FACE THOMAS MORE IN ANOTHER KEY PAC MATCH-UP

Jan. 11 - BETHANY, W.Va. – When the Bethany College men’s basketball team (9-5, 3-2) goes on the road Wednesday night at play at Thomas More (8-6, 4-0) in a 7:30 p.m. tip-off, it will be yet another match-up between two of the top teams in the PAC.

The programs have played nine times in the previous three seasons, including two match-ups in the PAC Tournament semifinals (2008, 2010) and one in the PAC title game (2009). While Wednesday will be just the first meeting of this season between the programs, it does carry significance in the PAC race, as the Saints are a half-game behind Thiel (5-0) for first place in the league with a showdown looming Saturday in Greenville against the Tomcats.

Meanwhile, Bethany needs a win to stay within striking distance of the top teams and also remain in front of Saint Vincent (2-2), who is lurking a half-game behind BC after the Bearcats edged the Bison 71-70 Saturday in Hummel Field House. Although Bethany led by 10 with eight minutes to go, SVC clawed back into the game and scored the winning point on a foul shot with 1.5 seconds to play. Sophomore Nick Wilcox (Venetia, Pa./Peters Tonwship) set a career-high for the second straight game with 25 points and junior forward British Alexander (Dayton, Ohio/Trotwood Madison) added 18 markers in the Bison’s first home loss of the year.

Bethany’s defense has dictated much of their success this year and an off day on that end of the court played a roll in Saturday’s loss. Saint Vincent shot 51 percent from the floor, the second-highest allowed by the Bison this year, and BC forced only 15 turnovers, their lowest figure so far. When the Bison, who lead the conference in forcing turnovers (19.8), cause 18 or more miscues by the opposing team, their record stands at 8-1 this season.

Thomas More has the upper hand in the last nine meetings between the teams with six victories, but the Bison have handled their trips to Kentucky well. Two of their three wins have come on the Saints’ floor, including a 91-75 triumph in last year’s regular season contest at TMC behind monster games from Joe Testa (19 points, 13 rebounds, five assists) and Wilcox (17 points, seven rebounds, six steals and five assists). Thomas More would win the rubber match between the teams in last year’s PAC semifinals with an 88-73 decision.

The Saints have picked up two consecutive victories following a three-game losing streak over the holidays. On Saturday, TMC rode double-doubles from Aaron Miller (26 points, 12 rebounds) and Brian Muse (19 points, 11 rebounds) to an 86-78 triumph at Waynesburg to remain unbeaten in the conference.  The strong rebounding games from Miller and Muse helped Thomas More hold a 52-35 rebounding advantage, including a 20-6 margin on the offensive glass.

Like Bethany, the Saints like to turn other teams over, as they are right behind the Bison in the conference rankings in forcing miscues with 19.1. They are also very good on the offensive boards, ranking second in that category as well by chasing down more than 14 offensive caroms a game and they have been held to less than  10 offensive rebounds in only two games.

The Thomas More offense is pretty balanced, with eight players averaging more than 5.5 points per game. Miller is the main threat, as the 6-4 senior is fourth in the conference in scoring (15.6) and rebounding (7.4). Down low, the Saints rely on 6-foot-7 Colt Stafford with 10.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game and the 6-foot-8 Muse, who has 20 blocked shots to go with 9.1 points and 4.8 boards.