KEY MATCHUP: Marietta College men host Capital tonight at 7:30

After Marietta College’s 73-72 loss to Mount Union a week ago, the Pioneers dropped to two games behind the Purple Raiders in the Ohio Athletic Conference standings.

But now, thanks to the team they host tonight at 7:30, the Pios (11-4, 6-2) are just a game behind the Raiders after they were knocked off 88-70 by Capital (7-8, 4-4) on Monday.

“Cap’s record is not indicative of the team they really are,” said Marietta head coach Jon VanderWal. “Coach (Damon) Goodwin does a phenomenal job with them.

“We always seem to have problems with them. They’re a tough matchup.”

When VanderWal arrived at Marietta in 2007, Capital was a premier team in the OAC. During VanderWal’s tenure, the Pioneers and Crusaders have engaged in some thrilling battles.

“It’s come right down to the last shot in a lot of our games,” VanderWal noted.

Such was the case last season, when MC won at Cap 69-68 on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Jacob Owens then later lost 70-67 in overtime at Ban Johnson Arena. The two teams went on to claim the top two seeds in the OAC Tournament.

Tonight, the rivalry continues.

“They’re a very talented team,” VanderWal said. “They don’t have any one guy to key on, but we need to know each guys’ tendencies.

“It’s gonna come down to us executing our gameplan.”

Offensively, A.J. Dixon leads Capital with 14 points per game this season. Andrew Bolka is the only other Crusaders player averaging double figures at 11.

Marietta also has two regulars averaging double figures, with Andy Dollman leading the team with 13.1 and RaNeal Ewing adding 12.8 per game. Marietta also has Garrett Stephenson (9.3), Brennan McKean (8.7) and Luis Garcia (8.7) who are each capable of putting up points in bunches. Garcia, however, is not 100 percent healthy and will see limited minutes against Capital.

Despite dropping out of the Division III national polls, VanderWal is happy with where his team is headed.

“We played Mount Union tough,” VanderWal said. “Then, we were able to give John Carroll their first home loss of the season. That’s always a tough place to play. I really like the direction of the team.”

Averaging 86 points per game against conference opponents, Marietta has the top scoring offense in the OAC. VanderWal, though, believes the key to beating the Crusaders will be good defense and rebounding.

“It’s gonna take an all-around defensive effort,” VanderWal explained. “Cap’s really physical. We’ve got to play good defense and we have to be able to rebound the basketball.”