Jan. 12 - CRESTVIEW HILLS, Ky. –Sophomore Nick Wilcox (Venetia, Pa./Peters Township) totaled 19 points and 13 rebounds and sophomore James Barton (Bethel Park, Pa.) tallied 16 off the bench to lift the Bethany College men’s basketball team to a 71-66 victory at Thomas More Wednesday night.
The victory kept the Bison within striking distance of the top teams in the PAC, as they now stand at 10-5 overall and 4-2 in the conference. This was the first league loss of the season for the Saints, who drop to 8-7 and 4-1 in the PAC.
Bethany overcame a long scoreless stretch in the first half to take a 27-26 lead into the locker room at intermission. Junior British Alexander (Dayton, Ohio/Trotwood Madison) hit a free throw to put BC on top 15-10 at the 12:53 mark, but Thomas More scored the next 11 points to move in front 21-15. The Green and White would miss seven shots and commit seven turnovers during the stretch, which lasted more than seven minutes.
Barton snapped the scoreless string with a Barton three with 5:45 to go before halftime and then Wilcox warmed up, as he scored the Bison’s final seven points of the half to give them the one-point cushion heading into halftime. The late surge gave Wilcox 11 markers at the break, which helped the Bison overcome 11 turnovers in the opening stanza.
A 10-4 run by Thomas More early in the second half allowed them to match their largest lead of the evening at 39-33, but Bethany’s sharp shooters gunned BC back into the game. Barton drained one trey and senior Dustin Opalka (Cortland, Ohio/Lakeview) buried back-to-back triples to put the Bison on top for good. Following a Wilcox foul shot, BC’s 12-0 spurt was capped in style with a dunk by Alexander off a lob from senior Ryan McFadden (Columbus, Ohio/Mount Vernon Academy) to make it a 45-39 spread in favor of Bethany.
The Saints cut the Bethany lead to four on four separate occasions, but were unable to move any closer. The Bison looked like they sealed the victory when sophomore Reece Mabery (Natrona Heights, Pa./Highlands) made four straight free throws to give BC their largest lead of the night at 67-55 with 1:05 showing on the clock. Although BC went cold from the foul line in the final minute, the Saints ran out of time in their comeback attempt and Bethany won their second straight regular season game at Thomas More.
The double-double by Wilcox, who also had three blocked shots, was his second of the year and the 13 rebounds is a new career-high. The only other Bison in double digits was Barton, who made 3-of-5 from the arc to finish with 16, ten of those coming in the second half.
Thomas More’s defeat came in spite of a strong effort from Aaron Miller, who amassed 28 points and 11 rebounds.
Bethany now has a week to rest following the big road win, as they won’t play again until next Wednesday when they host Washington & Jefferson at Hummel Field House in an 8 p.m. tip-off.