Presidents Host Tomcats On Basketball Alumni Day Saturday
WASHINGTON, Pa. – The Washington & Jefferson College basketball squads host Thiel College on Saturday at the Henry Memorial Center. Before the Presidents’ Athletic Conference doubleheader begins, both programs will hold alumni games as former men’s players hit the hardwood at 10:45 am, while the past women’s stars will get back on the court at 11:45 am.
The W&J-Thiel women’s game kicks off the doubleheader at 2:00 pm with the men following 25 minutes after. Both games can be viewed live online at WashJeffSports.TV.
The men’s contest features a battle between two teams looking to earn a quarterfinal round home game for the PAC Tournament (Feb. 18-23). Thiel currently holds down fourth place with a 6-4 league record, while W&J is one game back at 5-5. The top four teams in the regular-season standings receive home games for the quarterfinals (Tuesday, Feb. 19). Despite winning six consecutive games versus W&J in the regular-season, Thiel still trails the Presidents in the all-time series by an 82-38 margin.
A win by the Tomcats Saturday would sweep the season series and give TC the tiebreaker over the Presidents if the teams tie in the standings. Thiel defeated W&J 57-48 in Greenville on Dec. 1 behind 22 points from Kamran McCaskill, who made 16-of-18 free throws. The Tomcats sank 25-of-36 foul shots overall, while W&J made 9-of-17 shots from the charity stripe. Both teams shot 35 percent, but Thiel controlled the boards by a 44-28 margin, including 17 on the offensive end which resulted in 18 second-chance points.
Senior forward R.J. Pilato (Greensburg, Pa./Hempfield) was the only President in double figures with 11 points. He started in place of sophomore Nate Bellhy (McDonald, Pa./Fort Cherry), who missed the game because of injury. Nate Bellhy has a league-high seven double-double efforts this season.
The Tomcats (9-7) lost six consecutive games between Dec. 8 - Jan.5, but have responded with three victories in their last four outings, including a 66-62 home win over Westminster on Wednesday night. McCaskill netted 13 points, while A.J. Forbes added 11 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Thiel leads the league in rebounding (+4.6 rpg) and are second in field goal shooting (.437), but rank last in three-point percentage (.267, 59-of-221). Thiel and W&J (267) have attempted the fewest shots from three-point range in the PAC.
W&J is hoping to bounce back from a 60-51 setback at Saint Vincent on Wednesday. W&J outrebounded SVC 48-40, but shot only 32 percent (19-of-60). Senior guard Zach Bellhy (McDonald, Pa./Fort Cherry) produced 20 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks, while sophomore guard Mike Resnik (White Oak, Pa./McKeesport) scored 11 points, grabbed nine rebounds and dished out three assists.
In conference play, W&J averages 73.0 points per game (2nd PAC) and is shooting a league-best 41.5 percent (54-of-130) from behind the arc. Zach Bellhy is the conference’s second-leading scorer (19.3 ppg), while Nate Bellhy’s 9.1 rebounds per game lead the league. Sophomore point guard Doug Johnson (Greensburg, Pa./Latrobe) is shooting a PAC-best 47.5 percent (19-of-40) from three-point range, including a 54 percent in conference games.
The Washington & Jefferson women have lost back-to-back games after winning six of their previous seven. The Presidents have fallen into fourth place in the league standings, one game ahead of Westminster.
W&J (12-6, 7-4 PAC) and Thiel (5-13, 4-7 PAC) are meeting for the 65th time in history with the Presidents leading 45-19. The teams have split the last two season series, but W&J is looking for the sweep after a 65-50 December win in Greenville. Junior forward Chelsea Apke (Pittsburgh, Pa./Mount Lebanon) and sophomore center Valerie Dunlap (Hostetter, Pa./Latrobe) both recorded double-doubles for W&J.
Apke had 15 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and three assists, while Dunlap notched 13 points and 11 boards. Washington & Jefferson made 9-of-23 three-point shots and forced 20 Tomcat turnovers. Kelly Barzak paced Thiel with 18 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. Thiel fell behind 35-19 at halftime after only making 7-of-25 shots in the opening 20 minutes.
The Tomcats have won three-straight games and currently sit in seventh place in the league standings. Thiel is second in the league in field goal percentage (.423) and third in three-point shooting (.338). Kelly Muffley (17.6 ppg) leads the PAC in scoring, while Barzak (16.6 ppg) is third. Barzak leads the league in blocked shots (3.3 bpg), ranks second in field goal percentage (.538), grabs 8.6 rebounds per game (4th PAC).
Despite having two of the league’s top scorers, Thiel has struggled on the defensive end, allowing 70.3 points per game (9th PAC). Opponents are also shooting a PAC-best 36 percent from three-point range against the Tomcats. Teams have averaged a conference-high 22.6 three-point attempts per game against TC (average of 8.1 makes per game).
Thiel relies on three players on the court for nearly the entire game. Kayla Welty (37.9), Muffley (37.0) and Barzak (36.4) average the highest minutes per game among PAC players. Welty drilled the game-winning jumper as time expired Wednesday during a 65-63 win over Westminster.
W&J’s success has hinged on the offensive end of the floor as the Presidents are 9-1 when scoring at least 60 points. In its last two games, Washington & Jefferson was held to 48 against Westminster and 52 at Saint Vincent.
Apke leads the team and ranks sixth in the PAC at 14.5 points per game, while pulling down a league-best 10.5 rebounds per contest. Dunlap is also close to averaging a double-double with 11.3 points (13th PAC) and 9.2 rebounds (3rd PAC). As a team, Washington & Jefferson sits atop the PAC in free throw (.702) and three-point (.349) percentages.
Apke, who has led the team in scoring 10 times this winter, recorded 17 points and 11 rebounds in the loss at Saint Vincent, but the Presidents were hampered by 23 turnovers. W&J has lost four of its five games this season when committing at least 20 turnovers.