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Yearly Archives: 2017

Five Things to Watch in the PAC Women’s Basketball Tournament

By Justin Zackal

The 2016-17 PAC Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament tips off tonight with a pair of first-round games at Grove City and Bethany, followed by action Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Here are five things to watch:

SAINTS KEEP MARCHING

Thomas More sophomore guard Madison Temple.

Top-seeded Thomas More (25-0, 18-0 PAC), the No. 2-ranked team in the country, claims nine PAC titles. The Saints haven’t lost to a PAC team since 2012 or in a PAC tournament game since 2006. They receive a double bye and hosting rights for the final two rounds on Friday and Saturday.

The Saints are led by their “Big Three” of junior guard Abby Owings (16.3 PPG), sophomore guard Madison Temple (15.9 PPG) and junior forward Nikki Kiernan (15.0 PPG). No other player entered the season having averaged more than 10.3 minutes per game, so there are some new contributors, but the results are the same.

“It’s a matter of getting some freshmen acclimated during the year,” said Thomas More head coach Jeff Hans. “I think those guys have really grown up in January and February to gain that experience to where they are ready to help us make a run.”

To name a few, freshmen Emily Schultz (6.8 PPG) and Kylie Kramer (4.2 PPG) come off the bench and average around 13 minutes per game.

Other than earning the automatic berth into the NCAA playoffs, what Hans is looking to achieve this week is getting his team clicking, particularly working on defensive chemistry and not giving up easy baskets.

“You work all year long to play your best at this time because it is win-or-go-home time,” Hans added. “We want take care of our business.”

THE OTHER FINALIST

Thomas More is most likely to advance to the championship game, but who will the Saints play in the finals?

Last year’s finalist Washington & Jefferson (16-9, 13-5 PAC) has dealt with injuries this year, most notably junior guard Amirah Moore (14.0 PPG), who hasn’t played in nearly a month. However, the Presidents also have a double bye and they played Thomas More moderately close on Saturday, trailing by only four points with seven minutes to go in a 73-50 loss. As a point of reference, Thomas More outscored PAC opponents by an average of 42 points per game, including W&J and third-seeded Saint Vincent (16-9, 13-5 PAC) by a 26-point average.

Saint Vincent, which last played in the finals two years ago, can avoid Thomas More in the semifinals, which is how the Bearcats ended last season. Saint Vincent must play a quarterfinal game Wednesday to set up a game against W&J in the semifinals. The Bearcats lost to W&J twice this year but by a combined six points.

“We were right there: two possessions and one possession,” said Saint Vincent head coach Jimmy Petruska. “We have to get a couple more defensive stops and offensive takes.”

Petruska complimented W&J senior guard Taylor Cortazzo (12.4 PPG), along with Danielle Parker (14.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG) and Rachel Bellhy (12.2 PPG, 8.5 RPG) as the best post players his team faced all year, but Petruska hinted that W&J’s lack of depth could give Saint Vincent a good chance to beat the Presidents on the Bearcats’ third try.

“We definitely want to get to the conference title game.” Petruska said. “I think we have the team to do it. We’re playing well right now, so anything short of getting into that title game, then obviously winning it, is the minimum I want for this team.”

GAME TO WATCH

Bethany’s Sammie Weiss is a talented transfer from D-II Cal-U.

To get to W&J, the Bearcats will need to win at home Wednesday against the winner of Monday’s game between sixth-seeded Bethany (12-13, 10-8 PAC) and seventh-seeded Chatham (12-12, 7-11 PAC).

Bethany, which easily defeated Chatham twice this year, has the second- and third-ranked scorers in the PAC in junior Kelsea Daugherty (18.1 PPG) and senior Haley Holenka (17.5 PPG). However, when asked about the Bison, both Petruska and Hans first mentioned Sammie Weiss (16.3 PPG), who entered the lineup midway through the season.

Bethany’s version of the “Big Three” combined for 53 points in a 65-46 win at Saint Vincent Jan. 5, and 51 points in a 69-64 loss to the Bearcats at Bethany Feb. 8.

PLAYER TO WATCH

No Saint Vincent player averages more than 13 points, but keep an eye on Saint Vincent freshman Paige Montrose, who Petruska said is playing “phenomenal basketball the past six or seven weeks.” She averages only 5.1 points and she doesn’t even start, but she’s averaged 8.0 in her last three games and she scored a team-high 16 against W&J.

UPSET ALERT

Perhaps it’s a recency bias because Saint Vincent just beat Westminster, 60-46, on Saturday, but Petruska said to watch out for the eighth-seeded Titans (10-15, 5-13 PAC).

Westminster beat Bethany, 67-60, three weeks ago and was within five points of W&J in the fourth quarter in a 72-60 loss. Westminster plays Monday at fifth-seeded Grove City (14-11, 10-8 PAC), a team the Titans lost to twice this year but only by a combined eight points.

If Westminster wins, the Titans will travel to fourth-seeded Waynesburg (15-10, 11-7 PAC) Wednesday.

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Quarters or Halves? Two PAC Coaches Weigh In

By Justin Zackal

Give women’s college basketball teams a dollar and they’ll give you four quarters. Give men’s college basketball teams a buck and you’ll get two fifty-cent pieces.

Which change would you rather keep?

Prior to the 2015-16 season, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved on a recommendation from a women’s basketball rules committee to move the women’s game from two 20-minute halves to four 10-minute quarters, along with modifications to timeouts to account for the extra stoppages. This change left American men’s college basketball as the only level of the sport that plays two halves, as the international, professional and high school levels play quarters.

Earlier this week, the NCAA announced some experimental rule changes for next month’s postseason National Invitation Tournament (NIT) that could indicate the first step in men’s basketball calling for quarters, although any rules changes by the committee in the upcoming offseason wouldn’t be implemented until the 2018-19 season. While the NIT games will still be two 20-minute halves, team fouls will be reset after the 10-minute mark of each half, and the bonus threshold for free-throw shooting will be two shots after five fouls instead of 1-and-1 after seven and two shots after 10. This is an effort to speed up the pace of the game, especially in games with a lot of fouls early in each half.

So, what does this mean for Division III, which follows the same NCAA rules as Divisions I and II? We asked two PAC coaches their thoughts.

First, we asked Thomas More women’s basketball coach Jeff Hans how he likes the rule change. His team played quarters during a 10-day tour of Costa Rica in 2013 and he returned later for international coaching clinics where quarters were used.

“I love the change because it’s more like those rules,” Hans said. “It’s like someone taking a timeout at 10 minutes of the half. That’s all it boils down to. I like the fouls resetting because you can be aggressive early in the game and not stand at the free-throw line for 13 or 14 minutes.”

Hans said some coaches miss the pressure of putting players at the free-throw line for 1-and-1 situations, but even that is only three times a half at the most. Additionally, he anticipates the men’s committee switching to quarters soon.

“That’s how it usually happens,” Hans added. “The women will try something for a couple years and the men will modify it, or the men will try something and the women’s committee will modify it to fit our game better.”

Grove City men’s basketball coach Steve Lamie agrees.

“I have a feeling, knowing how the rules committee works, that they will,” said Lamie, the 19th-year head coach who recently surpassed the 250-win milestone. “The preseason and postseason NIT has been the experimental venues for any rules changes that we’ve had. Everything is driven from Division I on down.”

Although he doesn’t have a strong preference on either quarters or halves, Lamie’s one lament is the continual attempts to make basketball the same at all levels.

“If this is just a way of making every level of basketball uniform, I’d be against it,” Lamie said. “College basketball is a unique game and I don’t want it to be like the pro game with quarters (and other rules like the shot clock). I’m all for speeding up the game, especially at the end when there are so many timeouts and fouls. In terms of strategy or tactics, I don’t think it affects the game.”

It hasn’t affected the women’s game. According to Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis, in the years before and after the switch to quarters, women’s games still averaged nearly the same amount of fouls (17.52-17.55) and free throws (18.13-17.15) per game and the lengths of the games were roughly the same.

For what it’s worth, the change in quarters amounts to the same. And, thanks to Hans and Lamie, we didn’t even need a penny for their thoughts.

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18 Ifs, Ands or Buts About PAC Basketball Stats

By Justin Zackal

There are 18 days until the PAC men’s and women’s basketball champions will be crowned right here on the PAC Sports Network. As we count down to the finals, which will be held Saturday, February 25, here are 18 “ifs,” “ands” or “buts” about the league’s basketball stats.

MEN’S BASKETBALL

Matt D’Amico and the Saint Vincent Bearcats are trying to grab a fifth straight PAC crown.

1.) IF you subscribe to the “defense wins championships” axiom, then seventh-place Grove City is your team, albeit a long shot. The Wolverines give up the fewest points per game (66.3), 2.) BUT the Wolverines’ offense is ninth in the league in scoring (64.7).

3.) IF you measure defense by peripheral stats, fourth-place Thiel is a more viable contender. The Tomcats lead the PAC in steals (8.1 per game),

4.) AND forcing turnovers (15.7 per game),

5.) AND Clandell Cetoute ranks sixth in the nation with 3.37 blocks per game,

6.) BUT defending opponents’ shots is paramount: the Tomcats lead the PAC in field-goal percentage defense (39.5), which ranks 19th in the nation.

7.) IF scoring matters, well, Thiel does that too, leading the league in points per game (78.2). 

8.) IF games are won at the foul line, then second-place Thomas More is the team that can knock down free throws. The Saints lead the PAC and rank eighth in the NCAA with a 78.3 free-throw shooting percentage, led by Ralph Stone’s PAC-best 84.9.

9.) IF 3-pointers are game-changers, then first-place Saint Vincent is most reliable. The Bearcats shoot 40.4 percent from downtown, three percentage points better than any other PAC team and 14th in the nation.

10.) IF defending the 3-pointer is critical to preventing opponents from making up deficits or taking big leads, then third-place Westminster can control a game. Titan opponents shoot just 30.2 percent from behind the arc, 20th lowest in the nation.

11.) IF second chances off the boards make a difference, Thiel leads the PAC by attacking the glass with 41.6 rebounds per game,

12.) AND Westminster is second with 40.4 rebounds per game,

13.) BUT Thomas More has a plus-5.2 rebound margin by limiting opponents to just 32.7 per game.

14.) IF star players show up in crunch time, Bethany has Antonio Rudolph, Thomas More has Simon Clifford — the only two all-PAC performers from last year —

15.) AND it’s hard to argue with Thiel’s Tyreik Burton averaging 18.3 points per game,

16.) BUT Westminster’s Deontay Scott stuffs the stats sheet: 13.9 points per game, a PAC-best 9.7 rebounding average, eight double-doubles,

17.) AND the league’s most accurate shooting percentage (59.8).

18.) BUT Saint Vincent’s consistency ends the discussion: the Bearcats not only have won four consecutive PAC championships, they’re hot right now, too, winning nine straight games.

 

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

Nikki Kiernan and the Thomas More Saints have maintained their dominance again this season.

1.) IF you’re going looking for statistical evidence to determine the best women’s team in the PAC, you should look no further than first-place Thomas More’s average scoring margin.

2.) AND it’s not even close. The 10-time reigning PAC champions are outscoring conference opponents by an average of 43.1 points (93.9-50.8); the next closest is third-place Saint Vincent (66.5-57.8) at +8.7.

3.) BUT for the sake of this exercise, let’s look at the stats where the Saints exceed everyone else in NCAA Division III.

4.) IF you like efficiency, Thomas More takes care of the rock with 11.5 turnovers per game, the lowest in the country.

5.) AND the Saints distribute ball with 21.4 assists per game that lead the nation, giving them an NCAA-best 1.86 assist-to-turnover ratio.

6.) IF you had to credit anyone for this, it’s sophomore guard Michaela Ware, who leads the nation with a 4.81 assist-to-turnover ratio. The next closest has 3.13,

7.) AND teammate Madison Temple is fourth with 2.94.

8.) BUT are there other PAC teams that rank in the Top 10 in stats categories?

9.) IF 3-pointers are your thing, Westminster ranks fifth in the nation long-distance shooting, making 37.6 percent from behind the arc.

10.) AND two Titans (Rachel Durbin and Jackie Mathews) lead the conference with 46 made 3-pointers,

11.) BUT as a team, Westminster doesn’t shoot that many (18.2) and the Titans are in eighth place in the standings.

12.) IF you were to choose the best players in the PAC on stats alone, you could go with Grove City’s Lexie Arkwright, who leads the league with a 20.3 scoring average,

13.) AND her 4.2 steals average ranks sixth in the nation.

14.) IF not Arkwright, then maybe Bethany’s Kelsea Daugherty, who is averaging 17.8 points, thanks to 126 free throws that rank sixth in the nation.

15.) AND then there’s Waynesburg’s Addy Knetzer, who is averaging a double-double with 17.2 points and a league-leading 11.9 rebounds per game.

16.) BUT neither of these top three producers play for the PAC’s top three teams.

17.) IF you’re looking for intrigue on the women’s side, second-place Washington & Jefferson has won five straight games,

18.) AND one was by two points against third-place Saint Vincent, 75-73.

 

 

 

 

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‘Cousin Effect’: Bethany Teammates Discover They’re Related

By Justin Zackal

Bethany junior guard Andrew Williams.

Teammates saying they are “like family” is a trope heard often around college sports. Two upperclassmen on the Bethany College men’s basketball team have said that until someone told them they actually are family.

“It’s kinda crazy,” said senior guard Antonio Rudolph. “One day my mom called me she said, ‘You know you and Andrew are cousins, right?’ I said, ‘How? … And what are you talking about?’”

Rudolph’s mom, Courtney Hudson, explained to him that he’s related to junior guard Andrew Williams even though the two shared a backcourt for two seasons.

It all started last summer when someone posted a photo on social media of Williams and another Bethany teammate, Calique Jones. According to Rudolph, one if his cousins saw the photo and thought Williams looked familiar.

“It just went off of that,” Rudolph said.

Rudolph’s grandfather, Fletcher Hudson of New Castle, Pa., and originally from Alabama, is Williams’ uncle, making the two Bison teammates second cousins.

Williams remembers Rudolph as a good player in high school for New Castle High. Williams attended Oil City High School, about 50 miles from New Castle.

When Williams arrived at Bethany a year after Rudolph, they became friends.

“We were already close at first, but now we’re extremely close,” Williams said. “We hang out all the time and play 2K (video game) together and play basketball together.”

So when they found out they were related it wasn’t exactly like the scene from the movie Step Brothers: “Did we just become best friends? / Yep!”

“Before it was like ‘What’s up?,’ now it’s like ‘What’s up, little cuz?’ or ‘What’s up, big cuz?,’” Rudolph said. “Now it feels like we knew each other for so much longer for some reason.”

Bethany senior guard Antonio Rudolph.

On the score sheet they were pretty close last year, 326-271, with Rudolph averaging 12.1 points per game and Williams 11.3. But this year they are even closer. Again they are ranked second and third on the team in scoring, but only eight points (234-226) separate them through games played Jan. 28. Rudolph averages 12.3 per game, 13th in the PAC, while Williams is 19th in the league with a 11.9 scoring average.

Bethany is 12-7 this year and 7-5 for fourth place in the PAC. Last year, the Bison finished third but were upset in the semifinals of the PAC tournament.

Both players talked about how much they’ve improved, but that doesn’t mean the there’s more competition among the newfound family members.

“It’s all competition (with everyone on the team),” Rudolph said. “But with me and Drew it’s who can play defense better. That’s a similarity with us two.”

If Bethany’s able to make a run at the PAC title this year, the reasons could point to the familial bond and improved play of two teammates.

Rather than a cause and effect, you can call it a “cousin effect.”

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Lori Wynn Makes Inspirational Return To Geneva Bench

On Saturday, the Geneva Golden Tornadoes hosted the Saint Vincent Bearcats for a women’s basketball game in Beaver Falls, PA. However, this game transcended into something more important than a simple win or a loss. Geneva head coach Lori Wynn, who has been away from her team this season battling ovarian cancer, made a triumphant return to the bench. The PAC Sports Network’s Amanda Sloan was there to capture the moment with this video production that can be seen below.

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