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Jan. 11 - BETHANY, W.Va. – After dropping the first three games since returning from the holiday break, the road does not get any easier for the Bethany College women’s basketball team, as they travel to Crestview Hills, Ky., Wednesday to face #3 Thomas More at 5:30 p.m.

The Bison (6-7, 1-4) are coming off a 76-64 defeat Saturday to Saint Vincent, who just rose to #25 in the Top 25 poll. Bethany trimmed a 15-point second half deficit down to a bucket with 8:10 to go, but the Bearcats responded with a 21-5 run to clinch the victory. Junior Audra Droginske (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Central) knocked down three three-pointers on her way to 15 points, while junior Renee Shepherd (New Martinsville, W.Va./Magnolia) also tossed in 15 and hauled down six rebounds.

A boost to the Bison offense in the last two games has come from their bench. After the BC reserves scored just three points in last Monday’s loss at Thiel, the bench production has seen a major increase. In last Thursday’s Grove City contest, Bethany’s reserves outscored the Wolverines’ 21-3 and the margin in Saturday’s setback against Saint Vincent was 20-6 in the Bison’s favor. Freshman point guard Skylar Williams (Jefferson Hills, Pa./Thomas Jefferson) has been the key figure in both games, as she totaled seven points and six rebounds against Grove City and followed that with nine points and three boards Saturday.

Although Bethany leads the PAC in three-pointers per game (7.31), attempts (271) and percentage (35.1), part of their success this year has also relied on their ability to get to the foul line. In their last three losses, BC is getting to the charity stripe an average of less than 12 times per game, but in getting off to a 6-4 start this year, they were shooting an average of 21.2 free throws a game. Junior point guard Anne Wilson (Saegertown, Pa./Cambridge Springs) leads the Bison in attempts (56) and free throw percentage (71.4), which ranks her ninth in the PAC.

Last year’s two meetings between Bethany and Thomas More produced a pair of tightly contested games and the Bison nearly pulled off a stunner on their home floor. Junior Katelynn Hackathorn (Valley Grove, W.Va./Wheeling Park) had 18 points and 13 rebounds and sophomore Kayla Taormina (Center Twp., Pa./Quigley) finished with 17 points and nine boards to help BC take the Saints to overtime before Thomas More escaped with a 78-71 win. The second meeting in Kentucky was lower-scoring and TMC managed to post a 56-45 victory.

Thomas More (13-0, 5-0), who has won four consecutive PAC titles, is off to another impressive start. They are out-scoring teams by 16.7 points per game and are ranked first in the conference in field goal percentage (42.5) and field goal percentage defense (31.6). The Saints rode their stifling defense to a 59-44 triumph at Waynesburg Saturday, as they held the Yellow Jackets to 25 percent shooting (17-67), including just 1-for-10 from the arc. Three players scored in double digits on the offensive end, led by Chelsea Tolliver (15), Allison Long (14) and Nicole Dickman (12).

Triggering the Saints’ attack is the outside force in Tolliver, who is fourth in the league with 15.0 points per game, and the inside presence of Dickman, who is posting 13.9 points (seventh in PAC) and 8.4 rebounds (second) per game. Other key players include Long with 9.5 points and 2.6 assists per game and 6-1 sophomore forward Katie Kees, who leads the league with 2.62 blocked shots per game and is fifth in rebounding (7.6).