McPherson College’s men’s basketball team will take on arguably the KCAC’s most mystifying team Thursday night when it renews the McPherson County rivalry with Bethany College at venerable Hahn Gym.
The 8 p.m. clash will be preceded by a 6:00 women’s game. Both games will be aired on 96.7 KBBE-FM, with Chris Swick on the play-by-play call.
Both men’s teams are sliding and starving for a victory. The Bulldogs are 1-4 in the KCAC, while the Swedes are 0-4 as they already have enjoyed their first of two open dates.
While McPherson College is one of the youngest teams in the conference — only one senior — it’s a shock that Bethany is winless given its talent and experience. Its losses are to Kansas Wesleyan, Friends, Tabor and Oklahoma Wesleyan, though it was competitive in each game.
Bethany was thought by many to be a KCAC championship contender as three of its players were chosen All-KCAC during the preseason.
But one of them, All-America candidate Cody Harris, has missed nearly the entire season with an ankle injury. However, that could change Thursday.
“We hear Cody Harris may play so that would certainly give them a boost,” said Mac coach Tim Swartzendruber, whose team has lost its last five to drop to 3-9. “Bethany is one of the best offensive teams in the conference. They can flat-out score.”
The Swedes still have Gary Jones and Jonathan Gidson, the other preseason “all” picks. They both are capable of putting up 30 points on any given night. Larry McLin is another solid scorer, while veteran coach Clair Oleen has, as usual, stockpiled transfers as he seems to acquire more juco players than about any coach in the conference.
The Swedes’ problems have been on defense, which has been generous, including several games where they have given up more than 80 points.
That could help remedy the Mac offense, which has sagged since 6-8 center Reed Rowell was lost for what could be a month to 6 weeks with a severe ankle injury. The Bulldogs’ offensive woes have been well documented as they supremely struggle from 3-point range. Oddly, they made 16 in their first home game of the year, but haven’t approached that since.
A key for the Bulldogs is to stay out of foul trouble. The only real size left, 6-6 Michael O’Hara and 6-6 Ramon Martinez, have battled foul trouble since Rowell has been out. It’s imperative they stay on the floor.
• MAC WOMEN EYE .500 IN THE KCAC — The McPherson College women are 2 seconds away from being 4-1 in the KCAC and nipping at Tabor’s heels.
Instead, a buzzer-beater by Ottawa and a basket with 2 seconds remaining in the Friends game have left the Bulldogs at 2-3 and with little heart left to break as their intestinal fortitude is being severely tested by tough losses.
The Bulldogs are 3-8 overall. Bethany, despite a collection of fine individual talent, hasn’t yet put it together as it’s the only team winless in KCAC play at 0-4. The Swedes are 3-7 overall even though they possess one of the KCAC’s most dynamic scorers in Adriane Davis, a wispy guard who can create her shot about anytime she wants it.
Mac counters with Bailey Brown and Ashton Bruner, both putting together solid years. The question for coach Gordon Reimer is finding other players to step up consistently.