Jan. 24 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The second half of the PAC schedule will begin Saturday for the Bethany College men’s and women’s basketball teams with a trip to Thomas More (Ky.) College. The women’s game will start the day with a 1 p.m. tip-off and the men will follow at 3 p.m.
In Saturday’s opener, the Bison women (9-7, 5-2) will be trying to rebound from a 71-61 loss at Washington & Jefferson Wednesday. BC was able to cut a 14-point second half deficit down to two, but W&J staved off the Bethany rally by hitting all 10 free throws in the final 2:23. Bison senior guard Lisa Mitchell (Burgettstown, Pa./Avella) dropped in 18 off the bench and freshman guard Kelly Goode (Pleasant Plain, Ohio/Little Miami) amassed 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists, as the Green and White saw their five-game winning streak against PAC teams come to an end.
The loss occurred despite Bethany holding a 36-34 rebounding advantage over the Presidents, who entered the contest as the PAC’s top team on the glass (+9.9). It was just the sixth time this year BC out-rebounded a team. The Bison were able to come down with 15 offensive caroms in the loss and will need to crash the offensive glass with the same vigor against a Saints team that is allowing a PAC-low 11.0 offensive rebounds per game.
Not only will Thomas More bring an undefeated record at 16-0 into Saturday’s tilt, they also carry a lofty #3 ranking in the nation according to D3Hoops.com and the #5 spot in the national standings according to the USA Today/ESPN poll. The last time Bethany played a team ranked that highly in the national polls was in the 2002-03 season opener, when BC fell at preseason #3 and defending national champion Wilmington, 89-73. The match-up with the Saints is the eighth time the Bison have played a ranked opponent since 2000 and the Green and White are 0-7 in those match-ups. The closest Bethany came to pulling an upset was in 2001 when they fell by a 68-62 score to #15 Messiah at home.
The next closest game the Bison played with a ranked team occurred this past December when they battled then 15th-ranked Thomas More to a 71-60 defeat. The Saints sprinted out to a 39-23 halftime lead, but BC outscored TMC by a 37-32 margin in the second half. Mitchell tossed in 28 points to lead all scorers, while Thomas More was led by Nicole Dickman and Jayme Thiem with 12 markers each.
That Dec. 1st game at Bethany was the closest the Saints have played this season against PAC opposition. Thomas More is the top-ranked team in the conference in scoring (71.8) and points allowed (48.2) and are beating league foes by an average of 29.9 points per game. A balanced attack leads the Saints offensively, with Thiem (13.3), Tandrea Sellers (10.6) and Dickman (10.1) all averaging double figures.
Thomas More remained undefeated by beating Saint Vincent 62-50 Wednesday evening. The Saints surged out to a 32-20 halftime lead and cruised to win. Dickman recorded a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds and Caitlyn Mauch came off the bench to score 10 and grab six boards.
Game two will see a Bison team (10-7, 5-1) trying to stay atop the league standings and keep their four-game winning streak going. BC remained tied with Grove City (11-6, 5-1) for first place with a hard-fought 86-83 overtime victory at Washington & Jefferson Wednesday night. After squandering a 12-point lead in regulation, the Bison fell behind by five late in overtime. Senior guards Brody Jackson (Akron, Ohio/Manchester) and Marcus Adams (Columbus, Ohio/Mount Vernon Academy) would carry the Bison to the win by out-scoring W&J 11-3 in the final 1:44 of the game.
Wednesday’s win saw both Jackson and Adams achieve career firsts. Jackson totaled 27 points and 10 rebounds for the first double-double of his career. Eight of his boards came on the offensive end of the floor, which led to nine second-chance points for the Bison. For Adams, he went over 20 points in a game for the first time when he notched 23, the fourth time this season he has set a new career-high. The 5-8 point guard also recorded four rebounds, three assists and three steals in the victory.
The comeback in overtime continued an overtime trend for Bethany. In head coach Aaron Huffman’s six years at the helm of the program, the Bison have compiled an 11-1 record in OT contests counting Wednesday’s win. And BC has pulled out many of their overtime conquests on the road, as seven of those wins have come away from Hummel Field House, including the last four.
Regardless of whether Saturday’s game goes to overtime or not, the Bison face a tough task in going to Thomas More and coming away with a victory. The Saints (8-9, 4-2) are 5-2 in their home gym this season, including a 3-0 mark against PAC teams. Even during the past two seasons, when Bethany was compiling a 42-14 record and TMC was winning just five games, BC struggled to claim wins in Kentucky, pulling out an 84-77 victory 2006 and a 70-64 triumph last season.
Despite the success at home, Thomas More has lost two straight entering Saturday’s match-up, including a 72-56 defeat at Saint Vincent Wednesday. The Saints fell behind by 15 at halftime and a 9-0 run by the Bearcats to start the second half opened the lead up to 24. Leading Thomas More offensively was Romell Salone with eight points.
The Saints’ top threat is 6-6 forward Mark Tinklenberg, who was ranked in the top 10 in the PAC with 16.3 points (eighth), 6.8 rebounds (seventh) and 79.0 free throw percentage (10th) prior to Wednesday’s game. Tinklenberg was the main reason TMC came to Bethany back on Dec. 1 and walked out with an 87-78 victory, as he hit five of his seven threes and scored 26 of his 32 points in the second half. The win was Thomas More’s first over the Bison in five games since joining the PAC.