Waynesburg University coach Sam Jones has never had to prepare for the same team twice in a little more than 48 hours.
Well, there’s a first time for everything.
On Saturday afternoon, the Yellow Jackets [7-18, 6-10] hosted Bethany, knowing that they’d see the Bison [6-19, 5-11] Monday night in the first round of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference tournament. The only question left to answer was whether Waynesburg would come into the playoffs as the sixth seed, earning one more game in the Rudy Marisa Fieldhouse, or the seventh seed, earning a trip to ‘Wild and Wonderful’ West Virginia.
With a 70-58 win, Waynesburg will play one more home game at 7 p.m. tonight.
Familiar foe, new 40 minutes
For Jones, one of the challenges in playing the same team in such a short period of time is to forget about previous meetings, and focus on what’s ahead.
“Obviously, strategically, you’re not going to change a lot in 48 hours,” Jones said. “You don’t have time to really be able to even do that. It really is mentally more just about completely separating the games and just preparing for these games [ahead].”
Waynesburg won its previous two meetings with the Bison, with the prequel being the most dramatic.
At Bethany Jan. 22, the Jackets erased a 14-point halftime deficit to beat the Bison, 74-73. Saturday’s game was much less dramatic, but the end result was the same.
“We’re just going to go back and kind of look at what went well for us the first two times and what we didn’t do well and make sure that we try to avoid those things we didn’t do well and accentuate those things we did do well,” Jones said.
Weakness in triumph
Both of Waynesburg’s games against the Bison have been choppy at times.
The Jackets came out flat in West Virginia, and in the sequel, Bethany held Waynesburg’s offense, which ranks only behind St. Vincent and Grove City in points per game, was held to just 30 points in the first half.
In the first 20 minutes of Saturday’s game, the Jackets also struggled to box out, leading to the Bison taking a 25-15 halftime advantage in rebounding. Waynesburg fixed that issue in the second half, out rebounding Bethany, 29-20.
In both contests, Waynesburg flipped the switch in the second half, but Jones knows his team might not be as fortunate Monday if it doesn’t come out firing.
“We have to make sure that we come out with a high energy and focus on attention to detail,” Jones said.
Riding the wave
For Jones, keys to beating Bethany for a third time will be to execute the things it did well in the second half Saturday: boxing out and playing at a fast pace.
Regardless of whatever happened in the first two games, Jones knows the third meeting with Bethany is the most important.
“We can’t look at this as a team that we’ve beaten twice, but someone that we need to beat tonight,” he said.