Jan. 17 - BETHANY, W.Va. – Following a week off after an impressive road win last Wednesday, the Bethany College men’s basketball team (10-5, 4-2) will close out the first half of the PAC schedule by hosting Washington & Jefferson (6-10, 3-3) Wednesday night at Hummel Field House in an 8 p.m. tip-off.
The match-up will continue the longest-running hardwood rivalry in the PAC, as it will be the 164th meeting between the schools. W&J leads the series 90-73, but the Bison have taken five straight from the Presidents. Although BC has won eight of the last 10 meetings, nearly every game is contested to the final minute, as the average of margin of victory is just 7.4. Not only are the games tightly-contested, but they are usually meaningful in the standings and Wednesday will be no different. The Bison are tied for second place in the standings with Thomas More and Saint Vincent, who play each other Wednesday, while W&J lurks just a game behind the three-team pack.
Bethany pulled out a close victory in its last outing when they nipped Thomas More on the road 71-66 Jan. 12. After taking a one-point halftime lead, BC fell behind by six early in the second half. A 12-0 run, sparked by a pair of three-pointers from senior Dustin Opalka (Cortland, Ohio/Lakeview), gave the Green and White the lead for good and after building a 12-point lead with a minute to go, the Bison held off a late Saints charge. Sophomore Nick Wilcox (Venetia, Pa./Peters Township) notched his second double-double of the year with 19 points and a career-high 13 boards and sophomore James Barton (Bethel Park, Pa.) hit for 16 in the win.
Wilcox is currently in his best stretch of basketball in his two years at Bethany. In the last three contests, he is averaging 22.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game while shooting at a 63 percent clip from the arc. Although he does a lot of different things on the court, Wilcox’s big scoring efforts are tied directly to Bison wins, as the team is 7-0 this season when he drops in 15 or more. His recent surge in productivity has shot Wilcox up the PAC rankings in several categories, as he leads the circuit in steals (2.93) and is in the top 10 in scoring (ninth-14.3), rebounding (eighth-6.1), field goal percentage (third-57.3), assists (eighth-2.60) and blocked shots (fifth-1.27).
W&J may also be playing their best basketball of the season as they come into Bethany. After starting the year 2-0, the Presidents dropped nine of their next 10. But since the calendar flipped to 2011, they have won three of four, including a two-point win at home over Saint Vincent, a three-point victory at Westminster after rallying from an 11-point deficit with 5:45 to play and a complete domination of Waynesburg Saturday.
In an 86-45 rout over the Yellow Jackets, their 13th straight win over Waynesburg, W&J dominated the glass by a 54-28 margin and held a 48-12 advantage in points in the paint. Guard Paul Matthews and Zach Bellhy tied for game-high honors with 20 points each and Brian Felker totaled 16 points and nine rebounds. Those same three are the top scorers on the year for the Presidents, as Bellhy (15.5), Matthews (15.0) and Felker (13.8) are accounting for nearly 68 percent of the team’s scoring this year, the second-highest percentage by any trio in the conference.