Jan. 10 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany College men’s and women’s basketball teams head back out on the road Saturday when they journey to Grove City (Pa.) College for a PAC twinbill with the Wolverines. The women’s game is scheduled to start at 1 p.m., with the men due to follow at 3 p.m.
The Bison men (6-7, 2-1) fell for the fourth time in their last five games Wednesday with a 76-72 loss to Saint Vincent. BC held a 10-point lead with 8:30 to play, but the Bearcats rallied and scored five points in the last 27 seconds for the win. Senior guard Brody Jackson (Akron, Ohio/Manchester) fired in 24, his sixth game this season with 20 or more points, while sophomore forward Ryan Besancon (Wooster, Ohio/Waynedale) tallied 15 and senior guard Marcus Adams (Columbus, Ohio/Mount Vernon Academy) scored 14.
Besancon’s play recently has been a key for the Bison. While recovering from an injury suffered in the preseason, the 6-6 forward was averaging just 4.8 points and 4.0 rebounds through BC’s first four games. Since then however, Besancon has put up double figure points in eight of the last 10 games and been held to less than five rebounds only once. And in games against PAC foes, he is averaging 12.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks while shooting 57 percent (26-46) from the floor and 77 percent (10-13) from the foul line.
Bethany is due to play on the road in three of their next four games and that might be just what they need to get back on track. The Bison were 42-6 at Hummel Field House over the previous four years, but are off to a 2-4 start and averaging 78.8 points per game at home this season. By comparison, when BC invades another team’s home gym, they are scoring 84.2 points per contest and have posted a 3-1 mark, including PAC wins over Waynesburg (100-78) and Thiel (69-65).
However, Saturday’s game isn’t just another trip into someone else’s gym, as defending conference champion and current PAC leader Grove City (9-4, 3-0) is playing host to the Bison. The Wolverines remained atop the circuit with a 74-64 victory over Thomas More (Ky.) College Wednesday night at home, where GCC is 3-0 this year. The Saints led 32-25 at halftime, but Grove City shot 67 percent (14-21) in the final 20 minutes to outscore TMC 49-32. Shawn Carr and Ryan Gerber each had 16 points to pace the winners.
The Wolverines’ very efficient offense, which is second in the PAC in field goal percentage (47.2), is led by Carr. He is scoring a team-high 15.1 points per game, pulling down 4.9 rebounds per game, good for second on the team, and is shooting a PAC-best 50.6 percent from the arc (45-89). Two others are scoring more than 10 per game, including Andy O’Keefe (11.5) and Ryan Gibson (10.7), who is also leading the team in assists with 4.2 per game.
Grove City is also known for its fundamentally sound defensive teams and this year’s squad is no different. The Wolverines lead the PAC in field goal percentage defense, as opponents are hitting just 40.0 percent of their shots. Through 12 games, GCC has held seven teams, including the last three, to less than 39 percent accuracy from the field.
Saturday’s opener will see a Bison women’s team (6-5, 2-1) hoping to move into second place in the conference with a victory. Bethany is currently just a half-game behind Washington & Jefferson (9-3, 3-1) for second, but the Presidents will travel to fifth-ranked Thomas More (12-0, 5-0) Saturday. Meanwhile, Grove City will be trying to pick up their first win in conference this year, as they are 3-9 overall and 0-4 in the league entering the contest.
Bethany moved over the .500 mark this late in the season for the first time since the 2003-04 season Wednesday with a 99-88 victory over Saint Vincent. Five players scored in double digits, as the Green and White recorded the most points in a game since 1999 and the third-highest point production in a game in school history. Junior forward Susannah Cartland (Harvard, Ill.) led the attack with 20 points off the bench, while freshman guard Kelly Goode (Pleasant Point, Ohio/Little Miami) nailed four treys and had 18.
Also reaching double figures for the Bison were junior guard Kaitlyn McCormick (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Park) with 16, freshman guard Tara Harris (Zanesville, Ohio) with 13 and senior guard Lisa Mitchell (Burgettstown, Pa./Avella) with 10.
Just like the Bison men, Bethany’s women have played well on the road this season, which is in stark contrast to recent years. In the last three campaigns, BC was 5-25 when they stepped out of the friendly confines of Hummel Field House. This year, the Bison are 3-2 on the road, which includes conference triumphs over Waynesburg (65-47) and Thiel (80-75). Kelly Goode has found quite a bit of success this season in road contests, where she is totaling 15.6 points per game and is shooting 43 percent from the floor. Her numbers in home games include 12.3 points, but a shooting percentage of just 36 percent.
While the Bison have struggled on the road in years past, the one place they have enjoyed success is Grove City. BC has claimed four straight victories from the Wolverines, including wins in back-to-back trips to GCC. Last season, Mitchell poured in 25 and Renee Brandenburg (Avella, Pa.) notched 20 markers and 11 boards as Bethany claimed a 79-69 victory at Grove City.
The Wolverines come into the game with a 0-4 mark at home this season and are looking to break a three-game losing streak. GCC put up a battle against nationally-ranked Thomas More Wednesday before suffering a 61-46 setback. Forward Brittany Anderson had 12 points and nine rebounds and Laura Miller finished with 11 points and six rebounds, which helped Grove City record a 40-26 advantage on the glass. But that was negated by the Wolverines’ 33 percent shooting and 21 turnovers.
Consistency on offense has been an issue for GCC this year, as they are ninth in the conference in shooting percentage (34.4). They are also ranked next-to-last in the PAC in scoring (53.9) and have been held under 50 points in five games. Freshman Christine Slater has been a big addition to the line-up, as she leads the team in scoring (9.3), rebounding (7.0) and field goal percentage (44.9), all while coming off the bench in every game. Anderson provides the main inside presence for the team, as she is putting up 7.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks a game.