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Jan. 17 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The first half of the PAC schedule will come to a close Wednesday night when the Bethany College men’s basketball team hosts Saint Vincent in a battle for second place in the league standings. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.

Following a loss to Thiel last Wednesday, the Bison (14-2, 6-1) staved off an upset-minded Westminster squad Saturday for a 76-66 victory. The Titans missed a chance at a tying three-pointer in the closing minutes, which was answered by a trey from BC junior James Barton (Bethel Park, Pa.) on the other end and then 6-for-6 shooting at the foul line in the final 31 seconds to close out the win, Bethany’s ninth straight over Westminster.

Keying the triumph for the Bison, who shot 51 percent from the floor, was junior Nick Wilcox (Venetia, Pa./Peters Township), who netted 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals, and Barton, who dropped in 15 of his 20 in the second half. Senior forward British Alexander (Dayton, Ohio/Trotwood Madison) notched 16 points and 13 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season but first in the last eight games.

The new year continues to be a good one for Wilcox. Since the calendar rolled over to 2012, the 6-3 forward has led the Bison in scoring in all four games with an average of 19.3 points while shooting 65 percent (30-46) from the floor and 85 percent (11-13) from the free throw line. Wilcox is producing all over the floor, with 8.0 rebounds, 3.3 steals 2.8 assists over the last four games.

Despite the loss last week, Bethany continues to receive votes in the Top 25 poll. The Bison pulled in 37 points in the most recent poll to rank 30th in the country. Although the first round of NCAA Regional Rankings are not slated to be released until Feb. 8, BC stands fifth among Great Lakes teams in the D3Hoops polling behind Hope (7th-450 points), Wabash (16th-211 points), Wittenberg (21st-99 points) and Wooster (24th-60 points).

The Bethany-Saint Vincent series featured three hotly-contested battles last year that were decided by a total of 10 points. The Bearcats struck first last year when Dennis Bassich hit a foul shot with two seconds to play to lift SVC to a 71-70 win at Bethany. In the regular season rematch in Latrobe, Barton scored 19, as BC raced to a 17-point halftime lead and held on for a 65-57 triumph.

The teams locked horns again in the PAC Tournament semifinals and Bethany advanced on by the slimmest of margins. The Bison led by 10 with 3:25 to go before the Bearcats rallied to get within one and then missed two free throws and a jumper in the final 30 seconds, as BC escaped with a 66-65 win. Wilcox and junior Reece Mabery (Natrona Heights, Pa./Highlands) had 15 apiece, which was enough to counter 21 points and nine rebounds from Tauvon Pettiford.

Saint Vincent (12-4, 5-2) has pulled to within a game of the Bison in the standings after a slow start. Since an 86-69 setback to Thiel Dec. 10, SVC has won seven of eight and four in a row in league play. On Saturday, Saint Vincent trailed Thomas More at halftime, but shot 57 percent from the floor in the second half to rally for an 86-71 victory. Five Bearcats scored in double digits, led by 18 from Dillon Stith off the bench, Pettiford had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Bassich struck for 15.

Wednesday’s game will pit the two stingiest defensive teams in the league. Saint Vincent is allowing a PAC-low 60.8 points per game, while BC is second at 61.0. Both teams are holding opponents to 39.5 percent shooting from the field, tied for the best mark in the circuit, and Saint Vincent is first in three-point percentage defense (28.7), while the Bison are fourth at 31.2.

The Bearcats can also fill it up on the offensive end, as they rank third with 72.9 points per game. Bassich is the second-leading scorer in the PAC with 18.4 points per game and has hit 36 three-pointers. Pettiford (11.7) and guard Isaac Turner (11.5) are also averaging double figures and SVC received a boost after the first semester when junior Chris Klimchock transferred from Division II Edinboro (Pa.) University. The 5-8 point guard is averaging 7.8 points, 3.8 assists and made 12 steals in eight games since joining the program.

Fans that can not make the trip to Bethany for the games can follow the action live from their home computer. Both the women’s and men’s games on Wednesday will be video streamed live by the Bethany Broadcast Network. Fans can access the broadcasts by clicking here.