BISON FACE ANOTHER PAC CHALLENGE SATURDAY VS. THOMAS MORE
Feb. 10 - BETHANY, W.Va. – Fresh off battling one challenger for second place in the PAC, the Bethany College men’s basketball team (16-6, 9-3) will face another Saturday when its hosts Thomas More (12-10, 8-3) in a 4 p.m. tip-off at Hummel Field House.
The Bison kept their hold on second place in the league standings with a hard-fought 65-57 triumph at Saint Vincent Wednesday night. After a 17-point halftime lead was sliced to 60-57 with two minutes to play, Bethany held the Bearcats scoreless the rest of the game and made five free throws to secure the victory. Sophomore James Barton (Bethel Park, Pa.) led all scorers with 19 points, while British Alexander (Dayton, Ohio/Trotwood Madison) dropped in 17, sophomore Reece Mabery (Natrona Heights, Pa./Highlands) tallied 13 and sophomore Nick Wilcox (Venetia, Pa./Peters Township) posted a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards.
Saturday will also be the final regular season home game for seniors Ray Gardner (Detroit, Mich./Livonia Clarenceville), Ryan McFadden (Columbus, Ohio/Mount Vernon Academy) and Dustin Opalka (Cortland, Ohio/Lakeview). Gardner transferred to Bethany prior to the year and is averaging 2.2 points in 11 games, including three starts. A three-year starter, McFadden has played in 96 career games and is enjoying his best season, averaging 8.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game as a senior. Opalka missed all of his sophomore year because of injury, but has bounced back to play in 49 games the last two years, including 37 starts, and is averaging 7.5 points and 1.8 assists in the last two seasons.
In the initial meeting between the teams this season, McFadden and Opalka made solid contributions in the Bison’s 71-66 victory at Thomas More. Wilcox had a double-double that game with 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Opalka nailed all three of his attempts from the arc for nine points and McFadden compiled seven points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Thomas More suffered the loss despite a stellar effort from Aaron Miller, who had 28 points and 11 rebounds.
After losing two straight by a combined six points, the Saints responded in a big way by blowing out Waynesburg Wednesday 105-82. In addition to shooting 53 percent in the win, Thomas More created 33 Yellow Jacket turnovers that were converted into 45 points. A total of 14 players notched scores for TMC, led by Daniel Whelan with 14 points, as well as eight assists, Miller with 13 markers and Todd Krohman and Colt Stafford with 12 apiece.
Miller (15.1) leads the Thomas More offense, which is ranked second in the conference with 73.4 points per game. Stafford (11.3), who scored just six points in the first meeting with Bethany, has been a force on the offensive end since that game, averaging 14.1 in the last seven contests. Saturday’s outcome will likely come down to whether Bethany, who is committing the fewest turnovers per game in the PAC (13.5), can protect the ball against Thomas More, who is forcing the most miscues in the conference (18.9). The Bison made 18 turnovers in the first game with TMC, but only seven in the final 26 minutes of match-up.