Seven times this season, the Waynesburg University men’s basketball team had trailed by ten points or more at halftime. They lost each one of those games.
All of those losses, however, were in 2019, and Saturday’s game was the first for the Jackets in 2020. This time the result was different.
Waynesburg [1-12, 1-3] picked up its first win of the season, first in Presidents’ Athletic Conference play, and the first under head coach Tim Fusina in a 76-72 victory on the road at Geneva.
The Jackets overcame a 47-33 halftime deficit on the way to their first win.
“I’m happy for our guys,” Fusina said. “They’ve worked hard, they’ve dealt with a lot of adversity, they’ve dealt with a very difficult schedule. I’d have to go back and look at our opponents. I don’t think many of them have losing records.”
Nine of Waynesburg’s 13 games have been against teams with records of .500 or better.
The Jackets haven’t spent much time in the Rudy Marisa Fieldhouse either. Less than a third of Waynesburg’s games have been at home, with seven away games, two at a neutral site, and only four at home in the first half of the season.
“We’ve had a lot of road games,” Fusina said. “The schedule hasn’t done us many favors, but our guys have battled through adversity all year and they were finally rewarded. I thought they deserved a better fate on Monday night and they certainly deserved a win today.”
Waynesburg led for most of the first half, up 11 at one point, but with the Jackets leading 31-25, Geneva went on a 22-2 run to end the half with a 14-point lead.
The leading scorers for Waynesburg were Isaiah Alonzo with 19, Frank Bozicevic with 17 and a season-high seven steals, and freshman Ryan Felberg with 16.
Geneva was led by the duo of Ethan Moose and Joel Stutz, each putting up 17. 15 of Stutz’s points came from beyond the arc, and was 5-10 from three-point range.
By comparison, Felberg had the most threes for Waynesburg with four, none bigger than the one he made with 15 seconds left to give the Jackets a 76-72 lead, and essentially seal the game.
The freshman from Twinsburg, Ohio has been a starter the last eight games, taking the place of Matt Popeck in the lineup, after Popeck was injured in just the second game of the season.
Going with Felberg, Fusina believes, was not a hard choice for him to make.
“He’s our best on-ball defender, he’s our best help-side defender, he works extremely hard on the defensive side of the floor,” Fusina said. “[Felberg is] passionate about the game and what we’re trying to do as a program. He does a lot of things well for us.”
The Jackets have one more game before classes resume for the spring semester. Waynesburg has nothing but PAC games left on the schedule, continuing at home against rival Washington & Jefferson at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
With 2020 opening on a positive, Fusina believes better execution is the only thing between the Jackets and more wins down the road.
“We just have to continue to do what we do and get better on what we talk about every day,” Fusina said. “If we can get better at executing our stuff, we’ll be able to get some more wins here.”