The No. 5 seeded West Chester men’s basketball team (13-14, 11-11 PSAC) is headed to the PSAC Tournament to take on No. 4 seeded Bloomsburg University (15-11, 11-11 PSAC) after the Golden Rams dropped their season finale to the Kutztown Golden Bears (24-2, 20-2 PSAC) on Saturday afternoon inside of Hollinger Field House. The Golden Rams will travel to Bloomsburg on Monday, Feb. 27 for their conference tournament showdown with the Huskies.
Jackson Hyland erupted for a career-high 34 points to pair with 14 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to tilt the contest in WCU’s favor as the No. 1 seeded Golden Bears shot upwards of 50 percent from the field to keep West Chester fended off in what proved to be a back-and-forth affair.
The game featured 12 lead changes and 10 ties, and neither team could ever up their lead to double-digits. With 1:09 remaining, it was a one-possession game (Kutztown led 86- 83), but WCU failed to execute in the game’s waning moments.
Hyland was one of four Golden Rams in double figures, joined by Malik Jackson (14 points), Thomas White (14 points) and Tyrell Long (13 points and 11 rebounds). Aside from that core four, the rest of the team only managed to muster up 10 points. Starting point guard Matt Penecale racked up a team-high 11 assists for WCU.
West Chester won the battle in the trenches as they edged Kutztown 46-28 in paint points, but the Golden Bears’ three-point barrage nullified WCU’s interior advantage.
Kutztown shot 12-25 (48 percent) from downtown, which is better than what West Chester shot from the field for the entire game (46 percent). Ryan Connolly, who led Kutztown in scoring with 24 points, hit all seven of his made field goals from behind the arc, and teammate Anthony Lee followed suit as he poured in 22 points including four long-balls.
West Chester product and Golden Bears starting point guard Ethan Ridgeway notched a double-double as he scored 11 points and dished out 14 assists.
The Golden Rams were able to score easy points via the offensive glass (outscored KU 12-2 in second chance points) and the free-throw line (22-27 from the charity stripe), but the Golden Bears frequented even more than WCU, shooting 39 FTs of their own.
The loss put a damper on Senior Day, as both the men’s and women’s basketball teams, band members, cheerleaders and others were recognized. Thomas White is the lone senior on WCU’s team.
Prior to Saturday’s loss to Kutztown, the Golden Rams picked up an 80-75 road comeback win over the Millersville Marauders (9-17, 8-14 PSAC) on Wednesday, Feb. 22. West Chester closed the game on a 17-2 run, erasing a 15-point Millersville lead and got big plays from Hyland (13 points, 10 rebounds), Long (team-high 24 points, 11 rebounds) and Zach Bare (21 points, five rebounds) to secure the victory.
Bare’s fade-away jumper with 2:30 remaining gave WCU their first lead of the contest, with Hyland and Long connecting on clutch free throws to put the game on ice. The trio were the only three Golden Rams in double figures.
West Chester didn’t shoot the ball particularly well from the field (43 percent overall, 33.3 percent from three), but the Marauders’ ghastly percentages made the Golden Rams’ own shortcomings easy to hurdle.
Millersville shot 41 percent from the field, including 35 percent in the second half where they squandered their 15-point lead. They also connected on only 25 percent of their three-pointers.
WCU again bested their adversary in the paint, winning that battle 36-24. The Golden Rams also out-rebounded Millersville 42-34.
WCU seems to have a flair for the dramatic as this game again featured 12 lead changes and seven ties.
Millersville had three double-digit scorers: Jordan Greene (game-high 31 points), Cornell Yarde II (14 points) and Marcus Adkison (14 points).
During the one-week hiatus for President’s Day, West Chester went 1-1 in games against Shippensburg University (23-3, 19-3 PSAC) and Lock Haven University (13-13, 9-13 PSAC).
WCU avenged an early season loss to Shippensburg to win 93-70 behind a career-high 31 points for Long. Long also snagged down 13 rebounds.
West Chester was blistering hot in the contest, shooting a season-best 60.6 percent from the field in the victory. The Golden Rams put four in double-figures including Long, as he received some scoring support from Penecale (18 points), Bare (15 points) and Hyland (11 points).
WCU boasted their largest lead of 25 with 1:08 remaining in the contest.
The Golden Rams bested the Red Raiders in rebounds (41-26), points in the paint (48-24) and second chance points (18-9).
West Chester dropped a thriller to Lock Haven 86-85, as the Eagles made waste of the Golden Rams’ 10-point lead within the final four minutes of the contest. Lock Haven’s Tarojae Brake drilled a three-pointer with 1:40 left in the final stanza with the score tied, and WCU was never able to regain any traction as a team, sputtering down the stretch. Brake finished with a game-high 31 points.
Three Golden Rams hit the double figure ledger, as Bare scored 18 points, Hyland, 17 and Jackson, 13. Bare and Jackson’s steady offensive hands off the bench gave West Chester an important lift in this contest, as most of their starters struggled to put points on the board. Aside from Hyland, no other WCU starter reached the double-figure scoring mark, and shot a combined 6-13 from the field.
Both teams recorded ugly shooting percentages across the board, but West Chester did have an advantage in points in the paint (42-22) and they were given a huge boost from their second unit who managed to score 46.
If West Chester is able to defeat Bloomsburg on Monday evening, they will journey to Kutztown University to square-off against the Golden Bears, who are enjoying the luxury of having a bye due to being the top seed once again. That game would take place on Wednesday, March 1.
With their playoff lives hanging in the balance, West Chester will need all of the offensive firepower they can get. Another lull from their starters, and their season will be over. It’ll be interesting to see which WCU team shows up in the tournament.
Next to Kutztown in seeding is IUP (26-2, 21-1 PSAC). Trailing those two schools are No. 2 Shippensburg and No. 2 West Gannon (17-9, 15-7 PSAC). Rounding out the top five is WCU and Bloomsburg.
West Chester’s PSAC Conference Tournament away battle with the Huskies will be broadcasted on WCHE 1520 AM, so be sure to retreat to your nearest radio and show the Golden Rams support.
If readers have any intention of attending the game, it is $10 for adults, $5 for student-aged attendees and free admission for WCU students with a valid school ID.
B.J. Boyer is a third-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at WB806695@wcupa.edu.