W&J Stuns Thiel In Greenville 91-89 In PAC Quarterfinals; Travels To Top-Seeded Bethany Thursday
GREENVILLE, Pa. – Senior guard Uchenna Okocha’s (Cleveland Heights, Ohio/University School) three-point play with 2:11 remaining helped seventh-seeded Washington & Jefferson record a 91-89 upset of second-seeded Thiel on Tuesday night in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament semifinals at Beeghly Gymnasium.
The Presidents (9-17) shot 57 percent overall (30-of-53), made 26-of-33 free throws (81 percent) and scored a season-high 91 points. Freshman guard Mike Resnik’s (McKeesport, Pa./White Oak) free throw with 9.4 seconds left sealed the win.
W&J has now won a season-high three games in a row and will face top-seeded Bethany Thursday in the semifinals at 7:00 pm in West Virginia. The Presidents snapped a four-game losing streak to Thiel and won for the second time in the past three seasons as the lower seed in Thiel’s gymnasium (80-77 OT win in 2010 quarterfinals as No. 5 seed).
Washington & Jefferson led for a majority of the first half and used a 12-5 run to build a 25-16 lead at the 10:55 mark after a basket by freshman forward Mitch Locher (Pittsburgh, Pa./Avonworth). Okocha’s lay-up with 3:45 left in the half pushed the lead to 39-26, but Thiel (16-8) ended the half on a 14-2 spurt to close to within 41-40 at halftime. Bellhy had 16 points at halftime to lead W&J, which shot 56 percent in the opening 20 minutes.
The Tomcats grabbed a 44-43 lead early in the second half, but W&J responded with 11 of the next 15 points to take command of the game once again. Resnik had a two buckets during the run, while sophomore guard Brett Rubin-Goldstein (Pittsburgh, Pa./Fox Chapel) knocked down a pair of jumpers, including a key three-pointer.
The Presidents never trailed from that point and held off a late TC rally. A jumper by senior forward Zach Zelinsky (East Liverpool, Ohio/Beaver Local) pushed the lead to 68-56 with 9:15 remaining.
Devon Adams’ triple brought the Tomcats to within 77-72 at the 2:28 mark, but Okocha’s three-point play halted Thiel’s momentum. W&J iced the game with nine free throws from that point and earned its biggest victory of the season.
Freshman guard Andy Carter (North Huntingdon, Pa./Norwin) led the Presidents with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds. He made 5-of-7 field goals and 8-of-10 free throws. Bellhy bucketed a game-high 23 points on 7-of-12 shooting despite being hampered with foul trouble in the second half.
Resnik contributed 14 points and four boards, while Okocha and junior forward R.J. Pilato (Greensburg, Pa./Hempfield) rounded out five Presidents in double figures with 11 and 10, respectively. Okocha, this week’s PAC Player of the Week, added seven rebounds and five assists.
Blair Rozenblad led Thiel with 21 points and 16 rebounds. The Tomcats attempted 30 more shots than the Presidents (34-of-83), but only finished with four more field goals. Both teams grabbed 37 rebounds.
W&J was swept by Bethany during the regular season by scores of 79-60 and 81-49. Bethany has won eight of the last nine games in the series and has not lost to W&J at home since Feb. 23, 2008.