Presidents Travel To Thiel For PAC Men’s Basketball Tournament
WASHINGTON, Pa. – After ending the regular-season with back-to-back victories, Washington & Jefferson College will look to keep its momentum going Tuesday night when traveling to Greenville, Pa., for a 7:00 pm tip with Thiel at Beeghly Gymnasium.
The Presidents (8-17, 4-12 PAC) are the No. 7 seed for the conference tournament, while Thiel (16-7, 13-3 PAC) tied with Thomas More for the second spot in the standings and earned the tiebreaker (NCAA In-Region Strength of Schedule) to garner the No. 2 seed. W&J finished in a tie for seventh with Westminster, but received the higher seed due to the Presidents’ win over fifth-seeded Grove City.
W&J knocked off Waynesburg on the road 68-59 Saturday behind 20 points and nine rebounds from freshman guard Andy Carter (North Huntingdon, Pa./Norwin). Junior guard Zach Bellhy (McDonald, Pa./Fort Cherry) added 19 points for the Presidents, who overcame a 29-24 halftime deficit by shooting 50 percent in the second half.
Bellhy led the conference in scoring for nearly the entire season and enters the tournament with 454 points (18.9 ppg). He already owns the 10th-best, single-season scoring total in W&J history and can move up to the seventh-best with 11 points against the Tomcats. Bellhy is fifth in the league in free throw percentage (.808) and sixth in three-point percentage (.413).
Bellhy, who is 45 points of 1,000 for his career, averages 15.0 points and 3.3 rebounds, while shooting 45 percent in seven career meetings with the Tomcats. He has scored in double figures five times in those games, including a trio of 20-plus efforts.
As a team, the Presidents are second in the PAC in free throw shooting (.719) just behind Saint Vincent (.720). Thiel, led by fifth-year Head Coach Tim Loomis (67-80 career record) leads the league in field goal percentage defense (.394), assists (14.9 apg) and rebounding (+4.2). TC is also second in field goal shooting (.460). However, the Tomcats are last in the conference with 29 percent accuracy from three-point range.
Blair Rozenblad, last year’s PAC Player of the Year, is fifth in the PAC in scoring at 15.3 points per game for the Tomcats. He averages a double-double as his 10.8 rebounds per game lead the conference and rank 14th in NCAA Division III. Veteran point guard Devon Adams averages a PAC-high 5.1 assists per game, while scoring 13.1 points (12th in PAC) on average. Anthony Harvey (12.4 ppg, 17th), Chace McKinney (9.7 ppg) and Ladell Trotty (9.4 ppg) all rank among the top 30 PAC scorers.
Thiel was able to lock down the No. 2 seed thanks to its thrilling 80-78 home victory over Grove City on Saturday. AJ Forbes drained a 27-footer as time expired to give the Tomcats the win after Grove City had gone ahead with five seconds remaining. Thiel, which trailed 76-70 with 26 seconds left, received 22 points, five rebounds and four assists from Anthony Harvey.
In the first meeting between the two teams this year on Dec. 3, Thiel led 33-29 at halftime before scoring 17 of the first 18 points in the second half to collect a 63-48 triumph. Forbes and Rozenblad scored 13 points to lead Thiel, while Bellhy finished with 27 points.
W&J had a chance to tie Thiel in the final 10 seconds Jan. 25 at the Henry Memorial Center, but a jumper fell off the rim and two Rozenblad free throws iced the game and a 68-64 win. Rozenblad had 12 of his 20 points in the second half, while adding a game-high 13 rebounds. Bellhy pumped in 20 points for W&J, while Carter contributed 15. Thiel owned the lead for nearly 74 of the 80 minutes played between the two teams this winter.
Last year, W&J had its streak of four consecutive PAC Tournament quarterfinal victories snapped by Thomas More, a 58-57 loss at the Henry Memorial Center. The Presidents own an 8-10 record in PAC Tournament history, including a 6-5 mark under sixth-year Head Coach Glenn Gutierrez (79-85 career record).
W&J and Thiel will meet for the 119th time in history with the Presidents leading by an 81-37 margin. However, the Tomcats have won for consecutive games in the series since the 2010 PAC Tournament loss to the Presidents.
W&J has played in three PAC Tournament Championship games since 2005, but is still looking for its first conference title since 1995. The current conference tournament format started in 2002 and the winner earned the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time in 2008.
In Tuesday’s other quarterfinal games, top-seeded Bethany hosts Monday’s winner of No. 8 Westminster-No. 9 Waynesburg, third-seeded Thomas More hosts sixth-seeded Geneva and fourth-seeded Saint Vincent entertains fifth-seeded Grove City.