Survive and advance. That’s what the Waynesburg University men’s basketball team is hoping to do during this weeks Presidents Athletic Conference playoffs. The Yellow Jackets [6-19] are the tournaments seventh seed and will travel to Chatham to face the second-seeded Cougars [16-9].
“We have to guard the three on Tuesday,” head coach Tim Fusina said. “That’s what Chatham wants to do. That’s what Chatham likes to do.”
Chatham likes to shoot the three, and the Cougars do it well. As a team they’ve shot 35% from downtown on the year, tied with Westminster for first in the PAC. The Yellow Jackets have already lost to Chatham twice this season, but they have had some positives that they can use from their last matchup to help flip the result, particularly on the defensive end. In the second meeting between the teams, which took place at the Rudy Marisa Fieldhouse Jan. 29, Waynesburg held the Cougars to 56 points and just 8-34 from beyond-the-arc.
“You have to go back to that game at home,” senior Frank Bozicevic said. “Defensively we have to try and remember how we played them and do the same thing. The same energy. The same mindset.”
Guess who’s back?
One problem for Waynesburg that they didn’t run into last time was Will Sandherr. The senior averages 16.5 points per game, ranking third in the PAC. Sandherr’s first matchup against Waynesburg wasn’t ideal for the Yellow Jackets, as he posted 20 points.
“He’s a great player,” Bozicevic said. “He scores really well for them. He’s a big energizer bunny for them. We have to bring that back to him. Give him a taste of his own medicine.”
Sandherr’s return poses a major threat to the Waynesburg defense, but the main issue for Waynesburg, particularly in its last meeting against Chatham, was shooting the basketball.
In the second half of their late January matchup, the Yellow Jackets connected on only 26% of their shots. On the contrary, Chatham did so on 35% of their tries.
“It just wasn’t our night to make shots,” Bozicevic said.
Getting Alonzo rolling
Another key for Waynesburg will be getting Isiah Alonzo going. The 6’10 sophomore has scored 23 points in two matchups against Chatham. In Alonzo’s last outing, against Bethany, he scored 25 and just missed a double-double with nine rebounds.
“Alonzo got the ball in the post tonight where we had an advantage, and will have the advantage Tuesday,” Fusina said after Saturday’s game.
The last time Waynesburg won a PAC playoff game was February 26th, 2015. Although they Yellow Jackets are the underdogs against the reigning PAC champions, the players believe they can come out on top.
“Riding on a two-game winning streak, I think the confidence is there,” Bozicevic said. “We’ll be going in there excited and confident that we can come out with a playoff win.”