Dec. 15 - OLIVET, Mich. – Leading by only two at halftime, the Bethany College men’s basketball team turned to its defense, which forced 19 Olivet turnovers and limited the Comets to 25 percent shooting in the second half, as the Bison pulled away for a 68-46 road victory Thursday night.
The win kept Bethany undefeated this season at 10-0 and extended its longest winning streak since taking 18 in a row in the 2005-06 campaign. The Comets, who have played the majority of their schedule against NAIA schools and were playing just their third game this year against a Division III foe, fell to 1-7.
With the score tied at 11 early on, Bison junior Nick Wilcox (Venetia, Pa./Peters Township) knocked down a triple to ignite a 12-0 spurt, which was capped by a traditional three-point play from junior Brady Pacific (Avonmore, Pa./Kiski). A few minutes later, Olivet returned the favor, ripping of 10 in a row to tie the game at 25-25. After the teams swapped hoops, Bethany would take a 29-27 lead into the halftime locker room following a bucket from junior point guard Reece Mabery (Natrona Heights, Pa./Highlands) with 39 seconds left in the period.
The Bison shot just 35 percent from the floor in the opening period compared to the Comets’ 46 percent. The BC defense, which was forcing teams into 20 turnovers a game coming into the night, harassed Olivet into just three miscues, but Bethany used a 27-12 advantage on the glass, including 14-3 on the offensive boards, to build the two-point halftime cushion.
Bethany’s defense took over from the opening possession of the second half. Turnovers on the opening two Comet possessions led to five quick points and the Bison were off and running. Three turnovers in less than a minute were converted into six markers to take BC lead to 41-29. After a three by Olivet’s Marquis Childers made it a nine-point spread, the Green and White erupted for an 18-2 blitz that swelled their cushion to 59-34 with seven minutes to play.
The BC defense was so dominant after halftime, the Comets didn’t reach double digit scoring in the second half until a trey with 6:37 to go. By the time the final buzzer sounded, the Bison had outscored the hosts 26-0 in the paint in the second half and turned Olivet’s 19 turnovers into 25 points.
Spearheading Bethany’s attack on Thursday was Wilcox, who picked up his third double-double of the season with 18 points and 10 boards. Senior British Alexander (Dayton, Ohio/Trotwood Madison) and Pacific each tallied 13 and junior James Barton (Bethel Park, Pa.) went 3-for-3 from the arc and finished with 11.
For Olivet, Jaren Edsall scored a team-best 14 and Eric Mack notched his own double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Bison will take their undefeated record through the Christmas holiday before returning to action in the Staten Island (N.Y.) Tournament Dec. 29-30. In the opening round, Bethany will face its stiffest test of the season with a match-up against Illinois Wesleyan. The Titans have gone to the NCAA Tournament each of the last two years and are off to a 6-2 start this season. Tip-off on the 29th is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.