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BISON MEN HOST WESTMINSTER TUESDAY TO OPEN PAC TOURNAMENT
Feb. 21 - BETHANY, W.Va. – After earning the third seed for the PAC Tournament, the Bethany College men’s basketball team will open the conference playoffs Tuesday night at 8 p.m. in Hummel Field House against sixth-seeded Westminster.
The Bison (18-7, 10-4) enter the tournament on a bit of a down note, as they were defeated 74-67 Saturday at Washington & Jefferson in the regular season finale. The Presidents raced out to an 18-point halftime lead and despite BC making 10 of their season-high 14 three-pointers in the second half, their comeback efforts came up short. Sophomore Brady Pacific (Avonmore, Pa./Kiski Area) drained five triples and set a career-high with 21 points, while sophomore James Barton (Bethel Park, Pa.) fired in four from long distance to total 16.
Bethany will be trying for their third win this year and eighth consecutive victory over Westminster dating back to Jan. 2009. In the first meeting between the schools Dec. 1, BC nearly let a 21-point lead get away but held on at the end for a 75-74 triumph on their home floor. Sophomore Reece Mabery (Natrona Heights, Pa./Highlands) sparked the Bison with 12 points, seven assists and five steals, which helped counter 27 points from the Titans’ Doug Smith.
In the rematch Jan. 22 in New Wilmington, the Bison held Westminster to 17 second-half points to pull away for a 68-49 victory. Smith still had 20 points and nine rebounds in the defeat for the Titans, while Bethany sophomore Nick Wilcox (Venetia, Pa./Peters Township) led the winning effort with 21 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
As part of the Bison’s current seven-game winning streak against Westminster, the Green and White have won match-ups in the PAC Tournament each of the last two seasons. In the 2009 conference semifinals, Bethany pulled out a hard-fought 71-67 decision to move on to the title game, where they would fall to Thomas More. Last season, the teams squared off in the opening round and the Bison rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit for an 81-72 victory.
Bethany’s record in the nine-year history of the PAC Tournament is outstanding, particularly at home. The Bison have never failed to reach the tournament semifinals and are 14-5 all-time in the conference playoffs. That includes a 13-1 mark at Hummel Field House, with the only loss coming in the 2007 semifinals in a 78-75 setback to W&J. BC’s record against Westminster in the PAC Tournament stands at 2-1, with the Titans’ lone win being a 97-88 victory in the 2004 championship game.
Westminster (7-18, 3-11) had a strong end to the end of the regular season, winning their final two. On Saturday, they won at Grove City 66-49 for their second road victory of the season. The Titans committed just seven turnovers in the game and were led in scoring by Anthony Thomas with 21 points and Matt Shiner with 15.
The Titans rely in taking care of the basketball, as they commit a league-low 13.1 turnovers per game, and are also tops in the circuit in three-pointers with 9.60 per game. Off the strength of a PAC-best 3.05 treys per game, Smith is ranked sixth in the conference in scoring (14.3) while ranking seventh in three-point percentage (39.3). Thomas is also putting in double digits with 11.3 points per game and the top contributor down low is forward Rob Briggs with 10.1 points and 7.7 rebounds, third-most in the league.