To this point, the highlight of the Waynesburg University men’s basketball season has been a four-game winning streak that started Jan. 4 in Beaver Falls.
The Jackets, fresh off their New Year’s celebrations, and without a win on the season, came back from a 14-point halftime deficit to beat Geneva, 76-72.
That win seemed to jumpstart the Jackets, who followed it up by beating Washington & Jefferson, St. Vincent and Thiel. But now, Waynesburg has cooled off again, and is looking to snap a four-game skid.
On the contrary, Geneva is hot. The Golden Tornadoes won a thrilling 87-82 contest over St. Vincent Jan. 18, and haven’t slowed down since, beating Thiel, Bethany and W&J.
A different team in Beaver Falls
A big reason for Waynesburg’s win over Geneva in the prequel was its outside shooting. The Jackets took advantage of Geneva’s zone defense and shot 42% from beyond-the-arc. But coach Tim Fusina has seen from watching film for the sequel that Geneva isn’t as dependent on its zone as it was before the kids went back to school.
“They’re not playing zone as much anymore,” Fusina said. “They’re playing a little differently than they were then. They are more [focused on] ball screens. To drive and create in space, kick to a shooter. They still want to get the ball inside, but they’re doing it a different way.”
The Moose is loose
When Geneva wants to get the ball inside, it’s no secret who it want to get it in the hands of. Ethan Moose has established himself as one of the PAC’s best, and could come away with Player of the Year honors in March. The senior is second in the PAC in scoring [16.8] and rebounding [8.4]. Moose played well against Waynesburg in the first meeting, posting 17 points and 12 rebounds, but not well enough to change the outcome. Fusina hopes for a similar result Wednesday.
“He’s someone that when he catches it in the post, or starts his drive, he’s not really looking to give it back up,” Fusina said. “So we have to keep him out of the paint. He’s very effective in the paint, and not as effective when he’s outside of the paint.”
Guarding the outside
If Waynesburg can keep Geneva out of the paint, the Golden Tornadoes can work around that by doing something they do pretty well; shoot the three ball. The Golden Tornadoes rank third in the PAC in three pointers made. Joel Stutz ranks fourth in the conference in made threes, while freshman Matt Veynovich ranks seventh.
Fusina said the key to defending the outside shot will be the same as always; to contest and close out.
Overall, Fusina knows Geneva is a different basketball team than it was a month ago, and that will make snapping a four-game losing streak challenging.
“We’ll have our work cut out for us,” he said. “They’re playing really well right now.”