Feb. 3 - BETHANY, W.Va. – Having seen their hold over fourth place in the PAC dwindle to just one game, the Bethany College women’s basketball team will try to at least maintain that advantage Saturday when its hosts Washington & Jefferson in a 2 p.m. tip-off.
At 12-8 overall and 8-5 in the conference, the Bison are holding on to fourth place, which would bring a home game in the PAC Tournament beginning Feb. 21. Bethany is currently one game ahead of a hard-charging Westminster team (7-12, 7-6), who has won three in a row and hold a little more of a cushion over W&J and Thiel, who both stand at 5-8 in the league.
Their advantage in the standings is due more to Westminster’s recent winning streak rather than a BC slump. The Bison did lose in their last outing, an 85-52 defeat at PAC co-leader Thomas More Wednesday, but that loss broke a three-game winning streak. Bethany was within eight of the Saints at halftime, but TMC shot 52 percent in the second half to pull away for the win. Senior guard Anne Wilson (Saegertown, Pa./Cambridge Springs) led the Green and White with 10 points and now needs just 27 more to become the 15th women’s player in school history to reach 1,000 for her career.
Although Bethany shot just 28 percent in the loss to Thomas More, the Green and White still ranks fourth in the PAC in team field goal percentage at 38.5 percent. That number is bolstered by two of the most accurate shooters in the league. Senior forward Katelynn Hackathorn (Valley Grove, W.Va./Wheeling Park) leads the circuit by hitting at a 56.5 percent clip from the floor and junior Kayla Taormina (Center Twp., Pa./Quigley) is shooting 50.9 percent to rank fourth.
The first time Bethany and W&J squared off this year, it was the Presidents who were hot from the floor in a 76-59 triumph. The inside duo of Ashley Kirkpatrick (22 points) and Courtney Walsh (12 points, 13 rebounds) fueled the Presidents’ 38-12 advantage in points in the paint. Also playing a leading role for W&J, who shot a season-best 50 percent from the floor, was Vanessa Rivera, who had 16 points. Leading the Bison was Wilson with 16 markers as well, while Taormina dumped in 14.
The Presidents (10-10, 5-8) had won two in a row on the road before Wednesday, as they suffered a 62-55 setback at Westminster. W&J led by one at halftime, but a 16-4 Titan spurt to open the second half crippled the President hopes for a win. Rivera had a big game, putting in a season-high 18 points and adding six rebounds and four assists, while Kirkpatrick finished with 16 points, six boards and three blocks.
One area where W&J excels is turnover margin, as the Presidents commit a league-low 14.9 miscues per game and stand in first place in the PAC with a +5.65 turnover ratio. Offensively, they are led by Kirkpatrick, who is fifth in the conference in scoring with 13.9 points and third in rebounding with 7.9 boards. Rivera runs the show, averaging 9.1 points and a PAC-leading 5.45 assists and is shooting 79.3 percent from the foul line to rank third.