Jan. 13 - BETHANY, W.Va. – After dropping its first PAC game of the season Wednesday, the Bethany College men’s basketball team (13-2, 5-1) will try to bounce back Saturday in a road game at Westminster. Tip-off is slated for 4 p.m.
The Bison hosted Thiel Wednesday in a PAC first place showdown and cold shooting crippled the BC hopes for win, as the Tomcats emerged with a 69-57 victory. The Green and White made just 30.3 percent (20-66) from the floor, which was not only their worst percentage of the season but their lowest in a game since making only 28 percent in a loss at Pitt-Greensburg in Dec., 2008. Bethany was also defeated soundly on the glass, as Thiel posted a 50-31 rebounding advantage.
Leading the Bison in the setback was junior Nick Wilcox (Venetia, Pa./Peters Township), who made 8-of-13 from the floor to tally a game-high 20 points, which took him over 900 for his BC career (918). The 6-3 forward, who is fourth in the PAC with 14.6 points per game, has been at his best in conference games this year, averaging 17 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 3.0 steals. Wilcox also made five steals in the Thiel contest to give him 179 for his career and move into second place all-time at Bethany behind only Chris Stephens, who had 196 during his tenure from 2003-07.
The recent meetings between Bethany and Westminster have been dominated by BC, who has eight consecutive victories over the Titans. That streak includes victories over Westminster in each of the last three PAC Tournaments. Last year, the Bison had to hang on at the end to edge the Titans 75-74 at home. In the rematch in New Wilmington, Wilcox had 21 points and the Bison defense clamped down in the second half to only allow 17 points in a 68-49 triumph.
In the opening round of last year’s PAC Tournament, Westminster raced to an 18-8 lead to start the game, but Bethany exploded for a 37-5 blitz to finish the period and the Green and White went on to a 90-58 victory. The eruption was spearheaded by Reece Mabery (Natrona Heights, Pa./Highlands), who notched all 19 of his points in the first half.
The Titans (2-12, 1-5) come into Saturday trying to break a losing streak that reached eight games with a 61-56 loss at Penn State-DuBois Monday night. After trailing by seven at halftime, Westminster rallied to tie the game with 14 minutes to play, but DuBois, fueled by a 42-21 rebounding advantage, pulled away for the victory. Aided by five three-pointers, Doug Smith led Westminster with 19 points, while Ron Martino chipped in 13 and Adam Carswell totaled 10 points and a team-high six rebounds.
The Titan offense is in the middle of the pack in the PAC with 67.6 points per game, but teams are scoring 78.2 against Westminster, which puts them ninth in the conference. The three-point line is a big focus for the Titan attack, as they have launched 372 treys this year, by far the most in the circuit. They have hit eight or more triples in a game nine times this year, highlighted by 17 in a loss to Otterbein Nov. 18.
The top trigger man from the arc for Westminster is Smith, who is sixth in the PAC with 14.2 points per game and has hit a conference-best 47 three-pointers. He had strong games against Bethany last year during the regular season with 27 points in the near-win at BC and 20 in the loss at home, but was held to just seven in the PAC Tournament game. Also turning in double-digit scoring is 6-4 forward Ben Donlow with 10.9 points per game and 6-0 sophomore guard Anthony Thomas with 10.3 markers a contest.