Updated Fri, Jan 31, 2014 5:52 pm
A buzz is pulsating throughout the border-town of Marietta as the Pioneers men’s basketball team is riding a four-game winning streak into their next game against the Ohio Northern Polar Bears.
The Polar Bears (10-8, 6-5) are currently tied for fourth place in the Ohio Athletic Conference with Capital University and are looking up at second place Marietta (14-4, 9-2).
If Ohio Northern wins, they would take sole possession of the fourth spot and be one step closer to front-runner Mount Union (14-3, 9-1), which has yet to play its most recent game against Capital that was postponed due to weather.
The key for Marietta will be starting strong in the first half, which the Pioneers have done well this season. They have managed to take an average lead of almost eight points into the locker room during their win streak.
Marietta will also need to shoot well from the free-throw line as three of its last four games have been close affairs. Solid shooting at the line has helped the Pioneers rough the storm and get the win more often than not. Free throws have accounted for 96 points during the winning streak and had it not been for the Pioneers going 22-of-28 from the stripe, it would not have dispatched a strong Wilmington team in a close 78-76 win.
Another focus for both teams will be their player production off the bench. Sophomore wing player Luis Garcia scored 29 points in the win over Wilmington, but other Pioneers must step up their contributions if Marietta’s offense wants to be most effective.
The game’s venue will also play a big part in Saturday’s game. The Pioneers have only lost one time in Ban Johnson Arena and its rowdy crowd has helped account for that.
The Polar Bears are no pushovers on the road, however, as they have gone 6-3 away from Ada, Ohio. Ohio Northern is also a very good defensive team, averaging 8.2 steals and 22.7 defensive rebounds a game.
Players to watch on both teams will be Polar Bears’ senior guard Branden Rushton and Marietta’s junior guard Andy Dollman. Rushton averages 16.1 points per game and shoots about 46.8 percent from beyond the arc. Dollman averages 12.9 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and almost a steal a game.
Tipoff for Saturday’s game is at 3 p.m.