College basketball: Showdown at Ban Johnson Arena

After Marietta College plays Capital University tonight in a scheduled 7:30 p.m. men’s basketball game at Ban Johnson Arena, first place in the Ohio Athletic Conference standings will be occupied by only one school.

Right now, the Pioneers (16-5 overall, 12-2 OAC) and the Crusaders (15-6, 12-2) share the top spot.

“That’s a game that’s going to be full of energy,” said MC senior guard Tyler Worstell. “We need to pack this place (Ban Johnson Arena).

“We really need to bring it. They’re going to be out for us. They got a real bad taste in their mouths after we beat them the first time.”

On Jan. 16 at the Capital Center, Jacob Owens’ buzzer-beating three off the glass enabled Marietta to edge and stun Cap, 69-68.

A year ago, on Feb. 15, 2012, when the Pioneers hosted the Crusaders, the home team won easily, 73-48.

“Last year we kind of blew them out here, because we were making a bunch of shots,” said MC head coach Jon VanderWal. “If you’re not making shots against those guys, they’re not going to give you too many second chances. They’ll grind out every possession.”

Capital is coming off an 82-61 triumph over visiting John Carroll University (10-10, 7-7) this past Saturday. Spencer Niekamp tied a career-high with 27 points in a perfect shooting performance as the senior standout was 11-of-11 from the floor, including 5-of-5 from behind he arc.

“He is one of the leading scorers in the league,” VanderWal said. “He’s kind of like our J.J. Martin, and can score inside and out. So, that’s an interesting matchup between those guys.”

Against JCU, Tim Congrove added 13 points, A.J. Dixon chipped in with 11, and Ben Jackson had 10. Senior point Mitch Westerheide netted eight markers and set a career-high in assists with 10.

Another Crusader cager who the Pioneers will need to keep an eye on will be Michael Sommer.

“He is a really explosive guy, who’s had a couple of 30-point games,” VanderWal said.

The Marietta frontman paused.

“Capital is just tough and hard-nosed,” VanderWal continued. “They execute well and defend really well. They’re extremely well-coached. It’s just a tough game. They’re going to grind it out and make you earn everything.”

Marietta is coming off a dramatic 92-89 double overtime win against visiting Heidelberg University (9-12, 4-10) this past Saturday. Non-starters’ Worstell and Garrett Stephenson paced the navy blue and white winners with 22 and 20 points, respectively. Martin, who is the second leading scorer in the OAC, contributed 18 points, and Tyler Hammond netted 17.

Against Cap, MC is expected to start Jason Humphrey, Scott Kimmey, Martin, Hammond, and Owens.

After Capital, Marietta is slated to close out the home portion of its regular-season schedule against OAC third-place Baldwin-Wallace at 3 p.m. Saturday. The Pioneers dropped a 94-71 decision to the Yellow Jackets in Berea on Jan. 5.

“We’ve got a big week in Marietta next week,” Worstell said. “We need the entire community.”

Also in action at 7:30 p.m. tonight, the Marietta College women (7-14, 2-12) are scheduled to play at Capital University. The Stacia Shrider-coached Lady Pioneers fell 67-56 in the first meeting against the Lady Crusaders.

Marietta snapped an eight-game losing streak with a 69-64 win against Heidelberg. Tori Dixon led the way with 21 points. Candice Alexander added a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Krissy Rowe chipped in with 10 markers.

Lindsay Deemer and Heather Booth had 13 and 10 boards, respectively.

“We’re really big on defensive rebounding,” said Shriver after the Heidelberg game. “So, it’s huge for us to outrebound them by 27 (60-33). We’re very proud of that and 22 offensive boards. We’re going to win a lot of basketball games if we can outrebound people by 27.”