Dec. 28 - SPRINGFIELD, Ohio – In a battle between two NCAA Tournament teams from a season ago, the Bethany College men’s basketball team made several runs at host Wittenberg late in the second half, but the Tigers held off the Bison for a 65-58 victory in the first round of Wittenberg’s Zimmerman Classic Friday night.
The defeat dropped the Bison into Saturday’s consolation game, where they will take on Hanover (Ind.) College at 2:15 p.m. The Panthers lost their opening round game to Taylor (Ind.) University 77-63. Wittenberg (8-2) and Taylor will play in the championship game Saturday night at 7 p.m.
Trailing 7-6 in the early stages Friday night, Bethany scored on four straight possessions, including five markers from senior Brady Pacific (right - Avonmore, Pa./Kiski) to spark a 9-0 spurt that gave BC its largest lead of the game at 15-7. After the teams swapped buckets, Wittenberg sandwiched threes around a lay-in from junior Kevin Jackson (Baltimore, Md./Walbrook) to start chipping away at the Bethany lead.
The home team used a 12-2 run to tie the game, but scores by Pacific and junior Leslie Addy (Columbia, Md./St. Vincent Pallotti) had the Bison back in front. Wittenberg would draw even again with a pair of baskets in the final 1:10 to make it a 23-23 score going into halftime. Bethany was outrebounded in the first half 24-14, but forced 11 Tiger turnovers while committing just one miscue of their own.
The second half opened with Wittenberg using a 10-2 surge to take a 33-25 lead and the Bison spent the rest of the game trying to catch up. Bethany managed to keep the Tigers within striking distance throughout the final period, as the hosts never led by more than nine. The margin stood at 46-37 with 6:29 to play when BC made its move. Treys from senior Nick Wilcox (Venetia, Pa./Peters Township) and Pacific keyed an 8-0 push that sliced the Tiger lead down to 46-45 with 5:30 left.
Wittenberg answered that run with a three-pointer from Zach Leahy, the game’s leading scorer, and Bethany was once again forced to try to rally down the stretch. The Bison were within one possession when Wilcox hit a lay-up with 52 seconds remaining to make it 61-58. But a lay-up and two foul shots by Wittenberg, who went 20-for-23 from the charity stripe while BC converted just 6-of-15 from the line, gave the Tigers the victory and the trip to Saturday’s championship tilt.
It was a cold shooting night for the Bison, who, in addition to the free throw struggles, made just 35 percent (24-69) from the floor and 21 percent (4-21) from the arc. Pacific was the top scorer for Bethany with 17 and Wilcox (right) added 14. Jackson finished with eight, as did Addy, who also grabbed eight boards to lead the Bison.
The Tigers managed to secure the win despite committing 20 turnovers, their second-highest total of the year. Four players finished in double figures, led by Leahy with 18, while Scott Masin notched 12, Sam Collins scored 11 and Ben Syroka came off the bench to drop in 10.