College basketball: Pios beat Muskies

Although the Pioneers defeated Muskingum University 79-70, there was an eerie feeling to begin the night Wednesday in Ban Johnson Arena.

“I just wasn’t happy with the way we started the game,” said MC head coach Jon VanderWal. “Give Muskie credit. They came out swinging to begin the game. We were a little lackadaisical. It put us in a funk.”

Thanks to a lethargic start, No. 15 Marietta College found itself down 14 points to Muskingum with six minutes and 30 seconds remaining in the opening half.

The Pioneers trimmed that deficit down to a point at halftime thanks to seven points from Andy Dollman and 3-pointers from Brennan McKean and A.J. Davis in the final 6:30.

“Us responding the last six, seven minutes of that half was absolutely huge,” VanderWal said.

“I wasn’t happy with the way we played the first half but I felt pretty good about us winning the second half.”

MC found a bit of a groove in the second half. A layup by Garrett Stephenson to open the half gave Marietta the lead and Dollman extended the lead to four with a trey.

At the 15:11 mark, the Muskies retook the lead on a 3-ball by Dave Brown, but back-to-back buckets by RaNeal Ewing and Eddy Grenert put the Pios back on top by three.

With the game knotted up at 53-all with 11 minutes to go, Marietta did some damage at the free throw line to take the lead for good.

Keith Richardson and Ewing nailed a pair of freebies apiece to make the score 57-53. Later, layups by Davis and Stephenson stretched the lead to six, but Muskingum would fire back with a jumper from Clay Owings and a basket by Christian Keller to make it 62-59.

Ewing gave Muskingum the proverbial dagger by delivering seven straight points, including a nifty no-look, over-the-head layup, to give Marietta some cushion at 69-63. Dollman, who finished with a game-high 20 points, followed with a layup to make it an 8-point game with 3:31 remaining in the contest.

From there, Muskingum forced Marietta to do more work at the foul line. The Pioneers happily obliged, as Stephenson, McKean and Dollman combined to connect on 8-of-10 foul shots down the stretch to end Muskingum’s bid for its first conference victory. Marietta, meanwhile, has yet to lose in the league, improving to 4-0 in the Ohio Athletic Conference and 8-1 overall.

“I thought we came out sluggish,” said Dollman, a Parkersburg High graduate. “They started to get more energy than we did and I think it showed on the scoreboard. We were rattled, but we grinded together.

“We closed it to one at the half, and I think we just came out with a lot more energy in the second half.”

Dollman has taken over the starting point guard duties the past few games with Tyler Hammond unavailable and has done an admirable job, but looks forward to going back to his normal role as a wing.

“We’re undefeated since I’ve been point guard,” Dollman said, grinning.

“The last two games we’ve struggled. I’m not gonna solely blame myself, but I think it would have been different with Tyler at point guard. We’ll definitely be glad to have him back.”

“Andy Dollman’s a great player,” VanderWal said. “He’s really versatile. The last four games we’ve played without Hammond he’s done a great job of moving over to the point. That’s not easy, changing positions. I thought he played a solid overall game.”

The Pioneers were 24-for-57 from the floor (42.1 percent), including 7-of-22 (31.8 percent) from beyond the 3-point line. They grabbed 43 rebounds and turned the ball over 12 times.

The Muskies posted similar numbers from the floor, shooting 29-for-65 (44.6 percent) overall and 4-for-14 (28.6 percent) from 3. However, the Muskies collected just 31 boards to Marietta’s 43 and didn’t get to the line nearly as much as the Pios, making 8-of-13 (61.5 percent) shots at the foul line compared to 24-for-31 (77.4 percent) for MC.

Ewing posted a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Stephenson and McKean each scored in double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Davis chipped in with seven rebounds and 10 rebounds.

All five of Muskingum’s starters were in double-digits scoring-wise, with Brown leading the way at 16.

The Pioneers will now enjoy 11 days off for Christmas break before heading to Defiance College on Dec. 29, when they will take on Ohio Wesleyan.

“We’ve just got to get better and come back after the break ready to go,” Dollman said.