Pioneers shot the lights out but still 2 points shy of 100

Marietta College could’ve hit the century mark for the third time this season Wednesday night at Ban Johnson Arena.

The Pioneers — who are No. 19-ranked in the D3hoops.com Top 25 poll with a 19-5 overall record (13-4 Ohio Athletic Conference) — were leading rival Muskingum University 98-73 with about 20-25 seconds left in the contest, but elected to run the clock out.

“We had our chances,” said MC men’s head coach Jon VanderWal of the 100-point mark. “You know, we like to beat people up as bad as we can. But at the same time, we’ve got to have some class. And I have a lot of respect for the (Muskingum) coaches. I coached Travis Schwab (Muskies boss) when he was at Ohio Wesleyan, and then obviously Joe Puch played for me. So, we’re not going to do that to those guys. That’s for sure.”

The Pios misfired on six free-thow attempts (7-13) in the contest, and they’re shooting 78 percent from the foul line on the season. So, they really have no one to blame but themselves.

Thing is, Marietta was on fire from the field, shooting 63 percent in the second half and 54 percent for the game.

“It was just a good night overall for the whole team,” said MC 6-foot-7 sophomore Tim Kreeger, who led the charge with 21 points, six rebounds, and two blocked shots.

With the victory, there’s now a logjam in second place in the OAC standings. MC, the University of Mount Union, and Wilmington College are all 13-4. Capital University is now 14-3 after dropping a 67-62 decision to the Quakers Wednesday evening.

“The league’s tough,” VanderWal said.

After Saturday’s regular-season slate concludes, there’s a possibility of a 4-way tie for first place. Marietta will be hosting Heidelberg University (8-16, 6-11); Wilmington (17-6) is at John Carroll University (11-13, 7-10); and Capital (19-5) is at Mount Union (19-5).

Of course, if the Crusaders win in Alliance, they claim the league title outright. The OAC Tournament is scheduled for Feb. 19-23.

Marietta is 7-1 on its home floor this winter and favored to beat the Andy Bucheit-coached Berg, but it’s not a given. Last year, the Pioneers were upset by the Student Princes of Tiffin, 71-65, at the BanJo.

Bucheit was once an assistant to VanderWal at MC. So, you know that Heidelberg would definitely like to be a spoiler again.

It’ll be Senior Day at the BanJo Saturday, and Kyle Dixon, Anthony Wallace, Mel Shuler, and Keith Richardson all will be recognized. If Richardson can score at least five points (and he’s capable of doing that in a minute) against The Berg, Marietta will finish the 2018-19 campaign with three 1,000-point career scorers on its roster. Dixon and Wallace have already achieved the milestone this season.

And, finally, MC is expected once again to be without the services of starting freshman point guard Lukas Isaly.

“He’s doing all right,” said VanderWal of his injured playmaker from Hannibal River High. “But it’s doubtful he’ll play with nine stitches in his hand. So, it’s kind of hard to play with nine stitches in your shooting hand. It’s in the palm. It would be different if it was up here, but it’s in the palm.”

Ron Johnston is a Marietta Times sports writer, and can be reached at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com