With the regular season now in the rear-view mirror, the Kentucky Wesleyan College men’s and women’s basketball teams have turned their attention to the postseason.
Both squads, by virtue of finishing in the top four of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference standings, will host conference tournament quarterfinal games Tuesday at the Sportscenter.
The women will tip off at 5:30 p.m., followed by the men at 7:45.
The Wesleyan men (10-5, 9-5 in G-MAC) earned the league’s third seed and will host sixth-seeded Cedarville (10-8, 10-8) — the only conference foe the Panthers did not face this season.
Four of KWC’s final five games of the regular season were called off due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, including its Feb. 13 matchup against Cedarville. Still, Panthers third-year coach Drew Cooper is hoping Wesleyan takes advantage of the time off.
“We should be fresh,” said Cooper, whose squad last played Feb. 16. “Whether or not we’ll be rusty, you can never really predict those things. We’re in a situation where we’re going to be undermanned. I think our rotation will be a little bit different, but I think we’ll have the manpower to get this done — it’ll take a good performance for that to happen.”
Cedarville, meanwhile, enters the postseason on a three-game losing skid following Saturday’s 75-54 loss at No. 9 Hillsdale. The Yellow Jackets were voted the conference’s No. 2 team in the preseason, so Cooper knows they’re seeking redemption.
“They’re a team that hasn’t really achieved what they were hoping to achieve coming into the season,” Cooper said, “but that’s what this time of year is for — to atone for all your sins during the first few months. We’re hoping to do the same. We’re hoping to go in there very, very excited and confident to get this done.”
The Panthers will continue to rely on a defense that ranks second in the league in points allowed per game (68.5) and an offense that features three players scoring in double figures: Tre Cobbs (16.8 ppg), Zach Hopewell (13.5 ppg) and Wyatt Battaile (12 ppg, 7.2 rpg).
The Yellow Jackets have five players averaging double-digit scoring: Branden Maughmer (16.8 ppg), Quinton Green (12.8 ppg), Kollin VanHorn (12.5 ppg), Conner TenHove (11.3 ppg) and Isaiah Speelman (10.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg).
“They’re an experienced ball club that knows what it takes to win,” Cooper said. “It’s going to be a test, no question.”
On the women’s side, Wesleyan (16-4, 16-4 in G-MAC) enters having won 12 of its last 13 games and earned the conference’s No. 2 seed, with a matchup against seventh-seeded Trevecca Nazarene (6-5, 6-5) on tap.
The Panthers, who rank second in the league in scoring with 81.9 points per outing and lead the conference with 46.4% shooting from the field, are focused on turning up their defense — which holds foes to just 68.8 points per contest — to another level.
“We definitely need to get better on the defensive end,” said senior Kaylee Clifford, who averages 10.6 points and a team-best 5.9 rebounds per game. “It’s going to take defense to win a championship, and I think we all understand that and we’re ready for the challenge.”
KWC also gets 12.3 points per game from redshirt sophomore Tahlia Walton but otherwise features a balanced offense, which will counter the Trojans’ duo of Keeley Carter (16 ppg) and Faith Wilken (15.2 ppg).
Having the advantage of playing at home doesn’t hurt, either, co-head coach Nicole Nieman said.
“For us, anytime you can come back home to the Sportscenter is really nice,” she said. “To be able to come back and play on our home court, especially at the end of the season, is really nice. It’s good to have that crowd.”
Both the men’s and women’s G-MAC tournaments will continue Friday with the semifinals, which will move to the highest remaining seed following Tuesday’s opening round. All contests can be viewed on the Great Midwest Digital Network.