By: Marley Wolf
For the Yellow Jacket
The Waynesburg University’s men’s basketball team went into its eighth game of the season on Saturday, traveling to take on the Tomcats of Thiel College. The Yellow Jackets ended up being defeated 73-62. This loss brings their record to 3-5 and Thiel’s record to 3-4.
The game started with a close battle back and forth between the Yellow Jackets and the Tomcats. With some big, early threes from Thiel, they took the lead 15-8 after six minutes of play.
Throughout the first half, Thiel extended that lead, allowing them to be up by fifteen with a score of 29-12 with eight minutes remaining in the first half. The Yellow Jackets went on a run at the end of the first half to cut that lead in half, making the score at halftime 29-36 where the Tomcats led over the Yellow Jackets.
Waynesburg’s starting lineup looked different Saturday against Thiel compared to their previously unchanged starting lineup for the first seven games of the 2021 season. Many players had to step up to play different and more important roles for this matchup. Their head coach Tim Fusina is proud of how they all stepped up.
“I am always proud of how our guys play. We had guys play more minutes than normal for various reasons,” Fusina said, “but everyone is expected to know how we want to play both offensively and defensively. I am always proud of how our guys compete.”
The Yellow Jackets were led in scoring by junior guard Matt Popeck who had 25 points. He was followed by junior Jake Benhart, who put up a total of 16 points. Benhart was 4-4 from the field, which included being 3-3 from behind the arc. He was also 5-5 from the free throw line.
“Going into tonight, considering the circumstances of us missing a couple players, I just knew I had to be aggressive and step up to be someone who could lead the team. I knew I had to keep everyone together and right minded,” Popeck said.
Thiel controlled the pace of the game during the whole second half, hardly giving Waynesburg a chance to make a comeback. The Tomcats held their lead throughout the remainder of the game while also controlling the boards. Thiel out-rebounded the Yellow Jackets 44-30.
“We wanted to control the boards, which we didn’t do a great job of tonight,” Popeck said. “This led to the loss. We just wanted to go into the game tonight and just compete and play as hard as we could.”
Waynesburg plans on using this loss against Thiel to get better as a team and become more motivated to have a successful post season with the playoff approaching.
“I think that we are heading in the right direction. We are able to roll out 10-12 guys each night who are quality players and understand what we value on the floor,” Fusina said. “I think that we are only getting better. If you took a snapshot of us in January when we started practice and compared it to where we are today, I think we are light years ahead of where we were.”