When McPherson College’s men edged Baker 80-79 on Nov. 23 in Baldwin City for their signature win of the season, the Bulldogs were 6-2 and riding the wave of momentum.
Since that thrilling victory, however, the Bulldogs have crashed and burned by going 1-5, which gave them a 7-7 record going into Christmas.
Maybe the sight of Baker will reinvigorate the Bulldogs, who host the Wildcats at 8 p.m. Friday as part of the McPherson College January Classic, a tuneup before restarting conference play next Thursday at Tabor.
It’s a quadruple-header Friday at the Sport Center. The Bethel and Haskell women play at 2 p.m., followed by the Bethel and Haskell men. The Mac women take on Dakota State University at 6 p.m., with the Mac men and Baker wrapping things up.
On Saturday, there's four more games starting at noon, with Mac playing the 4 and 6 p.m. games, both against Haskell, while Bethel plays the Bulldogs' first-night opponents.
The Mac men lost their last three games before Christmas, with the culprit being defense. They gave up 93, 81 and 94 points in those games. The loss that really stood out was an 81-77 setback to Sterling in overtime after Mac had led by five points with 12 seconds left in regulation.
"We have worked extensively over the past four days on transition defense and offensive execution," Mac coach Tim Swartzendruber said. "Hopefully those two facets of our game will improve along with just being tougher defensively and not allowing people to score so easily."
The Bulldogs have been riding four players hard offensively, as each is in the Top 20 in the KCAC in scoring — Samson Shivers (17.3), Devirous Johnson (14.9), Joey Powers (13.9) and Brian Johnson (13.2). Finding some help for that quartet is a top priority, though T.J. Grant has given the team a lift at times off the bench.
Baker comes in at 6-6 and has a terrific player in EJ Carter, who averages 17.6 points and 6.9 rebounds. No other starter, though, scores in double figures. In the first meeting between the teams, Baker led much of the second half before Mac stole it at the end.
The Mac men then play Haskell at 6 p.m. Saturday. They escaped in the first meeting in Lawrence, 75-74.
"Haskell had a big win over Baker last Tuesday," Swartzendruber said. "They are much different from Baker. Their best two players are their inside guys. They have hurt people in the paint. Their guards are improving, but I feel their strength is inside play. We will need to do a good job fronting the post and keeping ball out of their hands."
• WOMEN LOOK TO KEEP ROLLING — Mac's women had a nice run at the end of the 2013 portion of the schedule. After a 1-5 start that included some close losses, the Bulldogs won six of eight and like the men are 7-7 overall.
Aubrey Barton and Bailey Brown both average 12.9 to lead the Bulldogs and Sunny Smart has chipped in with 10.2 off the bench.
Friday's opponent Dakota State comes in 6-11 and is led by Kylie Westover, a 5-7 guard who scores nearly 15 points a game.
On Saturday, the Mac women take on a 3-10 Haskell team the Bulldogs edged 59-58 on the opening night of the season.