By Keegan Raabe
The Waynesburg University men’s basketball team traveled to Pittsburgh Monday evening to take on the Chatham Cougars. The top-ranked PAC Cougars took down the Yellow Jackets 80-63. This loss puts Waynesburg (10-6, 6-3 PAC) at No. 5 in the conference while Chatham (11-1, 6-1) remains at No. 1.
Waynesburg’s shooting was a struggle all game long with only three players scoring in double digits. In the first half, Waynesburg was below 30% in all three shooting categories: field goals, three-pointers, and free throws. Waynesburg picked it up in the second half, but Chatham pulled too far away in the final five minutes going 15-5 during that period.
Graduate student forward Nijon Kirkman led Waynesburg with 23 points, nine rebounds, and three assists. Kirkman was also 50 % from three-point range with a team-best 4-8. Sophomore Jansen Knotts kept his hot streak going with 16 points, four rebounds, and three assists. Senior Matt Popeck added 10 points in Waynesburg’s loss.
“The game didn’t go the way we wanted it to go, Chatham is a good team with shooters at home and it was tough when they were hitting shots and we couldn’t find a groove at the beginning, but we still closed the first half only down by five with a terrible start,” Nijon Kirkman said.
With Chatham not allowing visiting team fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Waynesburg had very little support from the stands throughout the game making it tough to gain any energy from the gym, especially in the second half when Chatham started pulling away.
“In the second half, they were on fire and couldn’t miss, so it made it hard to close the gap, but we know what went wrong for us,” Kirkman said. “We will see them in a couple weeks at our home with our fans and family.”
The Yellow Jackets still have nine more regular-season games left, including a rematch against Chatham, and are looking to improve.
“We can improve on our closeouts and being in our gaps on defense and I feel like we will,” Jansen Knotts said. “On offense making sure we have good spacing and really focus on setting good screens and coming off them the way we are supposed to. All are fixable things that we will fix.”
Waynesburg is back in action on Wednesday, Jan. 26 home against Saint Vincent.