Waynesburg men’s basketball falls to Oberlin in season opener

The Waynesburg University men’s basketball team began their 2021-2022 season at home in the Rudy Marisa Fieldhouse hosting the Oberlin College Yeomen. Waynesburg students came out to show their support with a blackout theme for the student section. 

The first half of play was filled with heavy defense and both teams missing many open shots. It  was also a  tight battle for both teams and featured 11 lead changes. 

Waynesburg had a 5-2 lead almost four minutes in with senior guard Matt Popeck scoring the team’s first five points. 

The Yellow Jackets would then have a 10-8 lead almost halfway through the game after Oberlin fought back with a four point run. 

Waynesburg was then outscored 12-8 in the final part of the first half before graduate transfer forward Nijon Kirkman scored a layup in the paint with nine seconds left in the first half to make the halftime score tied at 20-20. 

Waynesburg coach Tim Fusina talked about the low scoring, defensive game, “We’re a defensive team,” he said. “We’re working on offense and we’re getting there. Defensively we play extremely hard and we make it very hard for our opponent. If we can do that on a night in and night out basis we’ll be okay, and we’ll have success.”

The second half began like the first half until Popeck hit a two point jumper to put Waynesburg up 32-30 with 11:31 left in the final frame. 

Oberlin then went on an 8-0 run, with senior guard Darien Knowles hitting a three pointer and two free throws. 

The Yeomen never trailed again, but Waynesburg did go on a 6-0 run near the end of the game. 

The Yellow Jackets trailed 45-42 with just 51 seconds left in the second half when a late timeout was called by coach Fusina. Play resumed and Waynesburg tried desperately to tie it up, but three point misses by sophomore Jansen Knotts and then Popeck sealed the 45-42 win for Oberlin. 

Popeck ended the game leading all scorers in the game with 13 points despite shooting 25 percent on the floor going 4-16. Knowles led Oberlin in scoring with 11 points including the three pointer.

Although the game was a tight defensive battle, coach Fusina remains optimistic for Popeck moving forward for the rest of the season, “He can be the best scorer in our league,” he said. 

Waynesburg men’s basketball will look to bounce back this Saturday Nov. 13, when the team travels to Erie, Pa., to take on Penn State Behrend at 7 p.m.