The mood going into Saturday’s game against Thiel at the Rudy Marisa Fieldhouse was different for the men’s basketball team.
When the campus went on Christmas break, the team had yet to win a game. When Waynesburg took the floor under the hot fieldhouse lights for the first time in the spring semester, the team was riding a three game winning-streak, the latest being a thrilling overtime win at St. Vincent. The Jackets also had a chance to move to above .500 in Presidents’ Athletic Conference play before the hometown fans.
Waynesburg [4-12, 4-3] didn’t disappoint the home crowd, coming away with a 76-64 win over the Tomcats [4-10, 3-4].
“I thought it was a great atmosphere,” coach Tim Fusina said. “When we can have that many students in the endzone there, that’s huge. It’s loud. This is a loud building. It gets loud. Our kids are good kids. They play hard, they compete. I’m glad the students came out.”
The backcourt of Frank Bozicevic and Ryan Felberg scored 46 of Waynesburg’s 76 points, with Bozicevic scoring a career-high 26 and Felberg adding 20.
The first half was tightly contested, and ended with the teams tied at 26. Waynesburg’s scoring came almost exclusively through two men. Isaiah Alonzo led all scorers with 12 points, and Bozicevic wasn’t far behind with 10. Thiel’s scoring was more spread out, with Chima Omeihe’s eight points pacing the Tomcats. Omeihe ended with 15 to lead Thiel.
A few key moments in the first half involved Felberg and Cam Auld each drawing offensive fouls. In 20 minutes, Auld took three charges, and Felberg added another. This toughness set a tone for the rest of the game.
“Our guys don’t care if we’re getting run over,” Felberg said. “We stay strong through the game, coach has a great emphasis on that. We play our butts off on the defensive end, and obviously it pays off for us.”
The dogfight continued in the first part of the second half. For the first six minutes, one team jabbed, and the other would jabbed back. Then, Waynesburg started connecting with shots to the body, going on an 8-0 run to build a nine point lead.
Thiel got off the ropes, pulling within two with a little more than seven minutes to play, but a three pointer by Felberg launched a 7-0 run that put the Tomcats on the canvas for the rest of the afternoon.
The three-pointer that launched Waynesburg’s second big run of the second half was one of several clutch shots Felberg hit on the afternoon. He also went 7-8 from the three throw line, helping the team go 21-23. Although Felberg is a freshman, Bozicevic doesn’t see it that way.
“This dude is—he’s a veteran in my eyes,” Bozicevic said. “He’s playing really tough. Honestly, I think everybody is depending on him to be the best on ball defender and take care of the ball, and obviously, he’s confident down the stretch in big games.”
Waynesburg is the top foul shooting teams in the PAC, and Felberg is happy to be contributing to that.
“I know I’m a good free throw shooter,” he said. “I know I’m trying to draw some fouls and go to the line, so I know I can knock them down. Those are just easy points, and they separate us from other teams.”
As for Bozicevic, the senior from Gateway High School continued what’s been a stellar run of form. Bozicevic was 6-7 from the foul line and 4-6 from three-point land. Over the four-game win streak, Bozicevic is 16-25 [64%] from beyond-the-arc.
“A lot of people are surprised, myself included, that I’m able to get the three ball down [consistently],” he said. ”I think this is the best I’ve been shooting the three ball out of my four years here.”
Overall, Fusina was pleased with the efforts of both the senior and the freshman.
“They were as solid as you can be today,” he said. “For the beating that they took today from a very physical team that picks you up and is going to be physical with you on the ball, I could not be happier with what they did.”
Along with production out of the backcourt, the Jackets got a big afternoon from the 6’10 Alonzo.
Playing against a team known for its size, Alonzo was up to the task, and finished the afternoon with 18 points and nine rebounds, just missing out on his sixth double double of the season. As important as anything else, Fusina said, was that Alonzo stayed out of foul trouble, and played 38 minutes as a result.
“He was great,” Fusina said. “18 and 9, 7-14 from the field, 4-4 from the line, didn’t take a three. I’d like him to get the ball to bal handlers better, obviously, because he turned it over a bunch today. That’s the one negative I’ll say, but he was on the floor for 38 minutes… to have him on the floor for a full 40 minutes, without [foul] trouble, was huge for us.”
Waynesburg will look to make it five in a row Wednesday night at Bethany. Tipoff is at 7:30.
“We’re just playing good basketball right now,” Bozicevic said. “So hopefully this can keep going.”