Feb. 11 - BETHANY, W.Va. – Much will be on the line Wednesday night when the Bethany College men’s and women’s basketball teams host Grove City in a PAC doubleheader at Hummel Field House. The men’s game will open the night at 6 p.m., with the women taking the floor in the 8 p.m. nightcap.
First place in the PAC will be at stake in the men’s contest, with Bethany (14-8, 8-1) holding a one-game edge over the Wolverines (14-7, 7-2). A victory by the Bison would wrap up the top seed and home court advantage throughout the PAC Tournament, while a GCC triumph would draw them into a first place tie and leave the #1 seed up for grabs through the final two conference contests.
BC closes out the regular season with a game at Westminster Feb. 20 and a home meeting with Washington & Jefferson Feb. 23. Grove City sandwiches home games against Waynesburg (Feb. 16) and Thiel (Feb. 23) around a road trip to Saint Vincent (Feb. 20) in a game that doesn’t count in the conference standings.
Bethany enters Wednesday’s fray off their first loss in a month. After trailing by as many as 17 in the first half at Saint Vincent Saturday, BC came back to take a 71-67 lead with 2:45 to play. But the Bearcats would post the final rally of the night and used a 10-2 run to wrestle a 77-76 decision away from the Bison, which snapped their eight-game winning streak. Senior guard Brody Jackson (Akron, Ohio/Manchester) was 5-for-5 from the arc and scored 21 points, while junior guard Tyler Morando (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Central) hit a trio of threes and notched 12.
The Bison have been a tough team to beat at home in the month of February the last five seasons. Since 2003-04, Bethany has posted a 17-2 record at Hummel Field House during the final full month of the season. BC has proven especially troublesome to the Wolverines when GCC comes to West Virginia, as the Bison have claimed the last five match-ups on their home floor with Wednesday’s visitors by an average of 13.2 points, including a 75-63 win last season.
In the first meeting of the squads this year on Jan. 12, Bethany used a barrage of three-pointers to cash in a 73-53 victory at Grove City. Jackson canned eight triples on his way his to 28 points and sophomore forward Ryan Besancon (Wooster, Ohio/Waynedale) sank four as he finished with a career-high 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. As a team, BC drained a season-high 17 shots from the arc. GCC was paced by center Andy O’Keefe’s 12 points.
Grove City set up the showdown for first by winning four of their last five games, including a 62-58 triumph at Thomas More Saturday. The Wolverines led 60-58 with seven seconds to play when the Saints missed a pair of free throws. GCC salted away the win when Ryan Gerber delivered a pair of free throws on the other end. Grove City guard Shawn Carr hit four three-pointers to lead all scorers with 19 and O’Keefe dropped in a dozen.
Carr (14.4) and O’Keefe (11.5) make up two-thirds of the Wolverines top scorers, with Ryan Gibson also registering double digits at 10.8 points per game. Carr also leads Grove City in rebounding with 5.0 per game and ranks second in the PAC in three-point accuracy (49.2). As a team, GCC is tops in the PAC at the foul line, shooting 73.8 percent and has four players who hit 80 percent or higher from the charity stripe, including Carr, who leads the league in free throw percentage at 91.5.
Although first place isn’t on the line in game two, it’s still a big game for the Bethany women (12-9, 7-3). They stand one win away from clinching a first round home game in the PAC Tournament and two victories away from securing no worse than the third seed for upcoming conference playoffs. That would be huge, as it would ensure Bethany could not see unbeaten and fifth-ranked Thomas More (21-0) until the PAC title game.
In addition to playoff positioning, the Bison will be trying to improve their winning streak to three straight. They made it two in a row with a 66-57 victory at Saint Vincent Saturday. With the game tied 31-31 at halftime, BC forced 15 second half turnovers and held the Bearcats to just 26 points to come away with the victory. Junior forward Susannah Cartland (Harvard, Ill.) fired in a game-high 19 points and junior Renee Brandenburg (Avella, Pa.) and freshman Tara Harris (Zanesville, Ohio) both had 10.
One difference in Bethany’s two wins last week was their work on the glass. After being out-rebounded in 14 of their first 19 contests, the Bison were +14 on the boards last Wednesday against Thiel and held a 52-36 margin in caroms against Saint Vincent, which raised their record to 6-1 this season when they post a rebounding edge. BC has been especially active on the offensive glass, as they lead the conference with 15.0 boards per game on their own end.
One of the games this year that Bethany was able to win despite losing the rebounding battle was their first match-up with Grove City. The Wolverines held a 48-36 advantage on the boards, but the Bison caused 27 turnovers and used a bench that outscored GCC’s 30-0 to post a 56-47 triumph. Cartland (12) and freshman Stacy Goode (Pleasant Plain, Ohio/Little Miami), who had 10, led the Green and White reserves, while senior Lisa Mitchell (Burgettstown, Pa./Avella) chipped in with 11. For Grove City, Brittany Anderson (11 points, 12 rebounds) and Krista Beechy (10 points, 15 rebounds) registered double-doubles.
Following the loss to Bethany, Grove City (8-13, 3-8) ripped off four consecutive wins and five victories in six games. However, they have dropped three straight since then by an average of 27.3 points. The latest setback was an 82-40 loss at Thomas More Saturday. The Wolverines were held to 32 percent shooting and turned the ball over 25 times. Katy McGready came off the bench to score a team-high nine points.
For the season, GCC is led by Christine Slater, who missed the first game with Bethany due to injury. In addition to scoring 11.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, she is the team’s best shooter from the floor (49.0) and three-point line (39.6). Beechy (7.9 points, 6.7 rebounds) and Anderson (7.3 points, 6.7 rebounds) are the top Wolverines on the glass and provide a solid scoring punch as well.