Rebounds key as Pioneer men defeat John Carroll

MC’s Dixon surpasses 1,000 points

Photo by Jordan Holland Marietta College’s Kyle Dixon, left, handles the ball as John Carroll’s Jimmy Berger defends during a college men’s basketball game Saturday at Ban Johnson Arena. Marietta won, 108-92.

MARIETTA — Marietta College defeated John Carroll 108-92 Saturday at Ban Johnson Arena, but Pioneers head coach Jon VanderWal was more impressed with a different margin.

Marietta outrebounded the Blue Streaks 44-22, a dominating performance on the glass for a Marietta squad which improved to 17-2 overall and 11-1 in the Ohio Athletic Conference. The win sets up another OAC first-place showdown between MC and Capital on Wednesday. The Crusaders defeated Marietta 82-78 earlier this season at the BanJo.

If the Pios rebound like they did Saturday, they’ll be tough to stop.

“We don’t ever beat John Carroll on the glass like that,” VanderWal said. “Obviously, we needed to get every one of those tonight because they were really shooting it in. When they did miss, we had to get it. I thought our guys did a good job crashing the offensive glass as well, which was huge. We think rebounding is the most important statistic in the game so we’re really excited to see that.”

Individually, Marietta’s Kyle Dixon led the way with 20 points, eight rebounds and three assists. On a basket with 8:59 left in the game, Dixon not only gave Marietta an 81-76 lead but surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career. He became the second Pioneer to reach 1,000 points this season along with classmate Anthony Wallace. Wallace added 18 points and four assists Saturday while Jason Ellis netted 16 points off the bench. Starters Mel Shuler and Caleb Hoyng added 13 and 12 points, respectively.

Dixon and Shuler, both seniors, have been through a lot together at Marietta. Shuler was happy to see his teammate and friend reach the 1,000-point milestone.

“It was really cool,” Shuler said. “Me and him work out a lot together. We spend a lot of time together. Seeing him get that meant a lot to me. We came in together obviously, so seeing where we came from to where we’re at now, especially where he’s at getting that 1,000th point, it meant a lot to me and I was happy to see him do that.”

John Carroll (8-11, 4-8 OAC) got a game-high 22 points from Jimmy Berger. Ryan Berger added 18, Sean Flannery 17 and Luke Hippler 12.

The Pete Moran-coached Blue Streaks watched as Marietta knocked down its first six shots of the game to build a 15-5 lead.

However, John Carroll sizzled from beyond the arc in the game and used the 3-point shot to stick with the Pioneers.

A 6-0 run by JCU gave the visitors a 34-32 lead with 6:10 left in the first half. Marietta answered with a 10-0 run to take the lead for good in the game. The Pioneers stretched their advantage to 14, 53-39, with 30 seconds left in the half, but John Carroll’s Connor Fitzgerald hit a deep trey at the buzzer and a technical foul gave Flannery a pair of free-throws for a five-point swing going into halftime.

Marietta led 53-44 at the break.

The Pioneers had to fight off John Carroll’s furious rally attempt for most of the second half. Jackson Sartain’s 3 with 11:22 to go got the Streaks within one, 73-72, but back-to-back trifectas from Dixon and Hoyng stretched the MC lead back to seven.

With 8:35 remaining, Keith Richardson’s crossover into a 3-pointer made it 84-76. Later, Marietta put the game away with a 9-0 run thanks to a 3-pointer by Wallace and six straight points by Ellis to make it 96-81. Marietta’s largest lead of 17 points came with 1:53 to go on Lukas Isaly’s jumper.

Both teams were hot from the floor. John Carroll was 52 percent (30 for 58) while Marietta was slightly better at 55 percent (36 for 65). That, combined with an epic performance on the boards by Marietta, proved to be too much for JCU to overcome.

“If we have it going offensively, we’re usually going to win,” VanderWal said. “We’re solid enough and good enough defensively, although I didn’t think we were at our best tonight, but we’re good enough defensively that if we have our offensive game, we’re going to be really tough to beat.”

Marietta’s depth has been a significant factor in the team’s success this year. It was on display again Saturday, not only with five players scoring in double figures, but 12 players getting into the rotation at crucial points in the game.

“I feel like the team is really deep,” Shuler said. “We have a strong group and we really enjoy each other. We like to see each other succeed, so when somebody is having a good night we try to make sure we get them the ball. A lot of guys seemed to have it going tonight. I really was happy for my guys. We really needed a game like that.”

Added VanderWal, “We went at least 12-deep today. I don’t know that we’ve ever had that luxury. We’ve always kind of played 10 guys and haven’t really had the luxury to go with 12 or 13 like I could do tonight.”

Now, Marietta turns its attention to Capital on Wednesday. The winner will control its own destiny the remainder of the season, in terms of winning the OAC regular season title and hosting the OAC Tournament.

“I think we have to take this momentum and keep going with it,” Shuler said. “It’s important that we don’t settle in to the success. We know Capital is going to be a really tough opponent on Wednesday. That’s going to be a big game for us.”