Jan. 22 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany College men’s and women’s basketball teams will complete the first half of the PAC schedule when they travel to Washington & Jefferson (Pa.) College Wednesday night. The doubleheader will open at 6 p.m. with the Bison men facing the Presidents, which will be followed by the BC women taking on W&J at 8 p.m.
The nightcap of the twinbill will be a battle for sole possession of second place in the league. Bethany (9-6, 5-1) fended off their first challenger for second place with a convincing 83-66 win over Westminster (Pa.) College Saturday afternoon. Of the seven players who saw time for the Green and White, six of them tallied double figures, led by junior guard Kaitlyn McCormick (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Park) with 17 and junior forward Susannah Cartland (Harvard, Ill.) and freshman guard Stacy Goode (Pleasant Plain, Ohio/Little Miami) with 14 each.
One key to the win over Westminster was BC’s outside shooting. The Bison set season-highs with nine treys and a 47.4 percentage from the arc (9-19). Freshman Kelly Goode (Pleasant Plain, Ohio/Little Miami) led the long-range shooting with three triples and the Bison’s nine trifectas in the contest were their most since burying 11 in a victory over Waynesburg Feb. 7, 2007. It also marked just the third time in the last three years that they hit nine or more in a game.
The one player who did not score double digits Saturday was junior Caelyn DiSanti (Tarentum, Pa./North Catholic), but she continued her main job of distributing the basketball. The 5-8 point guard finished with six points and six assists, which moved her into the top spot in the PAC in assists per game with 3.80. DiSanti has given out four or more helpers in seven of the last 10 games and is averaging 5.0 assists per game in conference outings, while also posting a 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio against PAC foes.
In addition to trying to stay in front of the Presidents in the conference standings, Bethany will be attempting to snap a four-game losing streak to W&J. The Bison dropped a 70-51 decision at home last year to the Presidents and then fell by a 67-54 count at W&J in a game BC led by 12 at halftime. Bethany has put up a tough fight in their last two trips to Washington, as they also lost by a 79-72 margin in 2006. Current senior Lisa Mitchell (Burgettstown, Pa./Avella) has played well in the two games at W&J, averaging 14.5 points and 4.0 assists in those match-ups.
The Presidents (11-4, 4-2) come into Wednesday’s tilt just a half-game behind the Bison for second place. They have rebounded from consecutive losses to Thiel and Thomas More by scoring solid wins over Saint Vincent (83-57) and Waynesburg (67-51). In the Waynesburg triumph Saturday, W&J was sluggish offensively in building a 28-22 lead at halftime. They recovered in the second half to shoot 52 percent (16-31) and pull away for the victory. Guard Stephanie Smith connected on six three-pointers and fired in a game-high 22, while forward Jen Rogers chipped in 12 markers and nine boards, which helped the Presidents hold a 49-25 advantage on the glass.
W&J’s rebounding dominance against Waynesburg was not a surprise, as the Presidents are out-rebounding teams by an average of 9.9 per game, the highest margin in the PAC by nearly three per game. Forward Maggie Gibson paces the W&J attack on the boards, as her 9.5 rebounds per game ranks her third in the conference. On the season, she has grabbed 10 or more caroms in 10 contests and the Bison will need to account for her on the offensive end, with Gibson leading the league in offensive boards with 4.4.
Gibson also provides the main scoring punch for the Presidents, with 13.1 points per game and is shooting a conference-best 65.5 percent from the floor. Another forward, Emily Hays, is second on the team in scoring (11.3) and rebounding (4.5), while the main outside threat is Smith, who is averaging 9.6 points per game and is shooting 39.5 percent (30-76) from the arc, third-best in the PAC.
Wednesday’s opening game will see a Bison men’s team trying to remain in a tie for first place in the PAC. Bethany (9-7, 4-1) won its third in a row and fourth in the last five games by shooting a staggering 70 percent (21-30) in the second half of a 102-61 drubbing of Westminster. Just like the BC women, the men had six players reach double figures in points, led by senior guard Marcus Adams (Columbus, Ohio/Mount Vernon Academy) with 16 and three others hit for 14, including junior guard Tyler Morando (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Central) and sophomore forwards Ryan Besancon (Wooster, Ohio/Waynedale) and Joe Testa (Amity, Pa./Trinity).
An unheralded member of the Bison this season who is making major contributions is Morando. The 6-2 guard transferred to BC this season from Marietta, where he averaged 9.2 points and tied for the team lead with 41 assists last year. In his first campaign with Bethany, he has become a solid scoring threat, notching nine games with double figure points, including a career-high 27 in a win at Franciscan last week, and averaging 10.0 for the season. He is also a major threat on the perimeter, where his 45.7 percent (32-70) accuracy from the arc is the fourth-best in the PAC.
While scoring hasn’t been an issue for the Bison this season, as they are ranked second in the league with 81.6 points per game, they will also be facing a W&J team which is ranked first in the conference in points allowed with 64.1. The magic number for both teams is 70, with the Bison sporting an 8-3 mark this year when score 70+ in a game. On the other side, the Presidents have allowed just four teams all season to surpass the 70-point marker, with the most being allowed coming against Geneva in a 79-69 loss. W&J has lost all four of those games by an average of 14.0.
While the Presidents (6-9, 3-2) boast one of the league’s stingiest defenses, they have had issues putting points on the board. They are ranked last in the conference in scoring (64.5) and field goal percentage (41.7) and have scored 70 or more in just four games, all wins. However, W&J is coming off their best offensive showing of the season Saturday, a 92-63 triumph over Waynesburg. Forward Albert Varacallo scored 20 of his career-high 30 points in the first half and the inside combo of Josip Lucic-Jozak (18 pts., 10 rebs.) and Wahib Owolabi (14 pts., 12 rebs.) each posted double-doubles.
The interior tandem of Lucic-Jozak and Owolabi presented a major problem to the Bison last year. The 6-4 Owolabi averaged 20.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in three meetings with Bethany a year ago, while the 6-8 Lucic-Jozak has been a thorn to Bethany for two years. In five career match-ups against BC, he has three double-doubles and is averaging 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds. The W&J Twin Towers are off to strong starts this year again, with Lucic-Jozak leading the team in scoring (14.3) and ranking second in rebounding (6.9) behind only Owolabi, who is totaling 11.3 points and 8.5 boards per contest. The 6-4 Varacallo presents another challenge, as he is putting up 12.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
Despite W&J’s inside success last year, Bethany managed to pull out the two regular season meetings between the programs, including an 82-73 win at home and a 79-76 triumph on the road. However, the Presidents would claim the third and most important contest between the schools, as W&J knocked off Bethany 78-75 in the PAC Tournament semifinals at Hummel Field House. Lucic-Jozak had 25 points and 11 rebounds in the win, while Bethany’s Brody Jackson (Akron, Ohio/Manchester) drilled six threes and finished with 21 in the setback.