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BETHANY HOSTS THOMAS MORE WITH FIRST PLACE ON THE LINE
Jan. 12 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany men’s basketball team will host Thomas More Wednesday night at Hummel Field House in an early season battle for the lead in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC). Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.
Wednesday’s game will be a battle for first place in the league, as the Bison (9-4, 3-1) and Saints (10-4, 3-1) are tied with Washington & Jefferson (7-8, 3-1). Since the Presidents are off Wednesday, the winner between Bethany and Thomas More will take sole possession of the top spot in the conference standings.
The Bison picked up their ninth win of the year with a hard-fought 62-56 victory Saturday night at Saint Vincent. It was a tight game throughout, as Bethany never led by more than seven and trailed by as many as two in the second half. Senior Joe Testa (Amity, Pa./Trinity) led all scorers in the game with 20 points and added 11 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the year. In the process, he became the 22nd player in Bison history to go over 1,000 career points.
Known more as a proficient offensive team during recent years, Bethany’s defense is starting to grab more attention this season. Over the last eight years, the lowest scoring average allowed by BC was 71.5, which occurred last season. This year, the Bison are ranked first in the PAC in points allowed (66.0) and three-point percentage defense (28.7). So far through 13 games, the Green and White have held eight opponents to 65 points or less, already surpassing last year’s total through 29 games (seven).
One reason for the better defensive numbers from the Bison is their ability to force turnovers. This season, they are ranked fourth in the PAC by forcing 17.5 miscues per game, which is their highest total since harassing opponents into 20.0 turnovers in the 2005-06 season. Freshman Nick Wilcox (Venetia, Pa./Peters Township), who is second on the team in scoring (11.8), spearheads the Bethany thievery, as he is second in the conference with 2.85 steals per game, while junior Dustin Opalka (Cortland, Ohio/Lakeview) is 10th at 1.46.
This will be the first meeting between Bethany and Thomas More since last year’s PAC Tournament Championship game, won by the Saints 91-65 in Kentucky. Thomas More won all three match-ups between the teams last year to take an 8-7 lead in the all-time series. The Saints have also come away victorious in their last two trips to Hummel Field House, but the Bison are 5-1 in their home gym this season, with their victories coming by an average of 15.8 points.
Both the Bison and Saints own victories over Top 10 teams this season. On Dec. 30, the Saints went to nearby Wilmington (Ohio) College and knocked off the 10th-ranked Quakers 92-90. Guard Daniel Neeley scored 22 of his 24 points in the second half, including the game-winning jumper with 5.2 seconds to play. Three days later, Bethany hammered #9 John Carroll 85-63 at Hummel Field House behind 25 points and 20 rebounds from Testa.
The Thomas More win over Wilmington started the Saints’ current four-game winning streak. Their latest triumph was a 93-67 win at Waynesburg Saturday. Thomas More overcame 25 turnovers with a balanced scoring attack, as 15 different players scored, and by out-rebounding the Yellow Jackets 57-36. Daniel Whelan came off the bench to post a team-high 12 points, while Aaron Miller tossed in 11.
Bethany’s stingy defense will put to a strong test Wednesday against a potent Saints offense. Due in part to scoring at least 90 points in four of their last five games, Thomas More leads the conference with 86.6 points per game and has also drained a PAC-high 114 three-pointers. Although TMC is rated last in the league in points allowed (81.1) and field goal percentage defense (50.8), their pressure is causing 21.9 turnovers per game, the most in the PAC.
The Saints’ point production can come from numerous sources, as six different players are averaging at least 7.8 points per game. Forward Daniel McKeehan is putting up 13.4 points and 4.6 boards per game, while Miller is second in scoring (12.6) and first in rebounding (6.1). Neeley (12.1 ppg) is the top perimeter shooter, as he is hitting at a 41.4 percent (24-58) clip from the arc, and also leads the squad with 29 steals.