College basketball: 2nd place Marietta College at 1st-place Capital tonight

After Marietta College defeated John Carroll University 81-70 in an Ohio Athletic Conference men’s basketball game at Ban Johnson Arena last Saturday, head coach Jon VanderWal put his arm around Jacob Owens as they walked to the locker room.

“I’m just proud of our team,” said the sixth-year Pioneer frontman. “Any win in the OAC is a good win.

“I thought our game plan was spot on, and our kids executed it perfectly.”

On the subject of perfection, Owens was right on, making seven of seven from the floor, including six threes, for a team-high 20 points.

“This is the biggest game I’ve had in a while,” said the 5-foot-9 Owens. “Last year, I had six or seven threes in one game but I didn’t go perfect. This is definitely up there.”

Now, VanderWal, Owens, and the rest of the Pioneer cagers are looking forward to the next Ohio Athletic Conference game when second-place Marietta (11-4 overall, 7-1 OAC) plays first-place Capital University (11-4, 8-0) at The Capital Center Gymnasium at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

“Last game of the first go-around for first place in the league, I gotta have it,” said VanderWal, whose team has won three of its last four contests.

Capital, the owner of nine consecutive wins, is coming off a 69-64 triumph at Ohio Northern University last Saturday. Spencer Niekamp and Tim Congrove paced the Crusaders with 17 points apiece. Jared Cashen chipped in with 10 points, and Michael Sommer netted eight markers and a team-best nine caroms.

Last season, MC and Capital split a pair of games with the home team winning each game. During the Pioneers’ playoff run two years ago, the Crusaders won both contests.

“They’re always a tough team for us to play,” VanderWal said. “Hopefully that changes this year.”

Marietta had the upper hand in the last meeting on Feb. 15, 2012, routing visiting Capital 73-48.

Marietta is expected to start Scott Kimmey, Tyler Hammond, J.J. Martin – who had 15 points against John Carroll – Jason Humphrey and Owens. Look for Brennan McKean – who scored 18 points off the pine vs. JCU – Tyler Worstell, Luis Garcia, Matt Napier, and Garrett Stephenson to also see court action. After playing Capital, Marietta is scheduled to host Wilmington at 3 p.m. Saturday. The Pioneers beat the Quakers 64-57 in the season’s first meeting on Dec. 8, 2012.

Also in action at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night, the Stacia Shrider-led Marietta College women’s basketball team is slated to entertain Capital University (10-5, 5-3).

After finishing 2012 with a break-even 6-6 overall mark, the Lady Pioneers (6-9, 1-7) have dropped three straight OAC games to start the New Year, including last Saturday’s 80-65 setback at John Carroll. In that contest, they actually led at halftime, 35-31. MC was paced by Candice Alexander (13 points, 10 rebounds) and Heather Booth (12, 10), who each recorded a double-double. Tori Dixon also tallied 13 markers.

Capital is also coming off a loss, dropping a 61-47 decision to NCAA Division III No. 9 Ohio Northern University last Saturday.

Cookie Geroski led Cap with 12 points and seven boards, while Jamie Caton netted nine markers.

The Crusaders have a 48-game winning streak against Marietta. After the Capital game, MC is back on the road at Wilmington at 3 p.m. Saturday. In the season’s first meeting at BJA on Dec. 8, 2012, the Lady Pioneers fell 66-61.