Feb. 22 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany College women’s basketball team will be on the road for their first round PAC Tournament game Tuesday when they travel to second-seeded Washington & Jefferson for a 7 p.m. tip-off.
The seventh-seeded Bison (7-18, 4-10) had a chance to earn as high as the #5 seed, but a four-game losing streak to end the regular season dropped them down. In Saturday’s finale, BC led #21 W&J 22-19 at halftime, but the Green and White shot just 19 percent (5-26) in the second half, as the Presidents rallied for a 52-42 victory. Sophomore Anne Wilson (Saegertown, Pa./Cambridge Springs) scored a team-high 10 points for Bethany, while Maggie Gibson finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds for W&J.
Poor second half shooting has been the culprit in the Bison’s last three losses to W&J, games in which BC led at halftime. In last year’s PAC Tournament semifinals, Bethany led 34-32 at the break but shot just 29 percent (10-35) in the second half as the Presidents advanced with a 78-62 victory. Then in the teams’ first meeting this year on Jan. 20, the Bison held an 18-16 lead at intermission, but went ice cold again, making only 27 percent (8-30) from the floor after halftime, which allowed W&J to rally for a 47-37 triumph.
Although Bethany has struggled to score against the Presidents, they have controlled the rebounding in both match-ups this year. Behind 11 points and 12 boards from freshman Taylor Kress (Sharpsville, Pa.) in the first meeting, the Bison held a 42-33 advantage on the glass. On Saturday, sophomore Katelynn Hackathorn (Valley Grove, W.Va./Wheeling Park) hauled down 12 caroms to help BC hold a 41-31 rebounding advantage. In both games, the Bison pulled down 15 offensive rebounds, an impressive feat considering W&J allowed the third-fewest offensive boards per game in the conference during the regular season (11.52).
Last year’s win by W&J in the semifinals was their first against the Bison in the PAC Tournament in four tries, although it was their first meeting since the 2004 Championship game. Overall in the first 10 years of the conference tournament, the Bison have a 10-6 record, but are just 1-2 in road playoff games. This is only the second time in 11 years BC has been on the road for the first round of tournament and the first since falling 76-60 at Westminster in the 2003 quarterfinals.
For the Presidents (22-3, 12-2), they carry a four-game winning streak into the league playoffs. They are 11-1 at home this season, with the only blemish being a 72-70 setback to Grove City Dec. 5, and 24-2 at the Henry Memorial Center over the last two years. W&J has captured seven straight first round games in the PAC Tournament and have reached the semifinals all 10 years since the tournament’s inception.
Saturday’s effort against the Bison solidified the Presidents as the top defensive team in the conference, as they are giving up the fewest points in the circuit (52.4) and are holding teams to a PAC-low 34.8 shooting percentage. Although Gibson, who is second on W&J in scoring (11.1) and first in the league in rebounding (9.9), had a big game Saturday, senior point guard Kennan Killeen has been the bigger thorn to the Bison recently. In her last seven games against Bethany, she is averaging 12.9 points, 3.9 assists and 3.6 rebounds, which has helped W&J post a 6-1 record against the Bison during that time.