Sports Talk: Pioneer sharpshooter has ‘ice in his veins’

Jacob Owens is expected to be in the starting five when Marietta College plays host Dickinson (Pa.) College in an NCAA Division III first-round men’s basketball game at 7 p.m. Saturday.

That hasn’t always been the case this season for the All-Ohio Athletic Conference honorable mention honoree, who is averaging almost 10 points per game. Fact is, the 5-foot-9 senior has only been in the center court tip-off in 13 of 27 games.

As a competitor, Owens – whose nickname is J.O. – likes to start, and feels he’s earned it.

“I’ve been in the gym a lot,” Owens said. “I worked all summer and I have all the confidence in the world to shoot the ball. I just shoot freely.”

When Owens is hot, he’s on fire. But when he’s not, well…that’s why he’s occasionally had to come off the pine.

“He hasn’t had an easy go of it,” said MC head coach Jon VanderWal. “We benched him at the beginning of the year. He wasn’t starting.”

Needless to say, Owens wasn’t pleased with the decision, but he’s channeled his frustration on the subject into a positive manner, been patient, and made his minutes count in a productive way as both a starter and non-starter.

Against John Carroll University on Jan. 12, Owens started and led the Pioneers to an 81-70 triumph with 20 points on a perfect seven of seven from the field (six of six from 3-range).

The following game at Capital University on Jan. 16, Owens scored a game-high 17 points, which included a buzzer-beating, game-winning three off the glass.

From the floor, he was six of eight.

Owens has only led Marietta in scoring one other time this winter when he poured in a career-high 29 points in a 111-106 triple overtime win against visiting Wilmington College in an OAC Tournament semifinal on Feb. 21.

Two days later at Ban Johnson Arena, Owens tallied 21 in MC’s 80-76 overtime and NCAA tourney-clinching win against Mount Union. He was very instrumental in helping the Pioneers stage a second-half comeback.

“We’re known to be a second half team,” said Owens after the game, “and we just had to believe in ourselves, believe in our coaches, and we just did it.

“I don’t know how to explain it better than that. We just did it.”

During Marietta’s rally after the break, Owens’ four-point play (three plus a bonus freebie) reduced the deficit to single digits, 54-45.

Owens and the Pioneers were not to be denied.

“Oh, my goodness,” VanderWal said. “Jacob’s got ice in his veins, doesn’t he? He’s incredible. He’s just come on like gang busters at the end of the year and played great.

“I’m so proud of that kid, and really happy for him.”

Cross your fingers that Owens has another hot hand again Saturday night. If he does, Marietta College is going to be very tough to beat.

Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor and can be reached at 376-5441 or at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com