Mountain Cats attempt to rise up in standings

Trevor Leard, Staff Writer

The regular season is more than half over the Pitt-Johnstown men’s basketball team as they look to make a surging drive into the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament.

The men’s team started off the season strong, winning four out of the first six games, but has not maintained that stamina and has faced some struggles since the end of the fall semester.

“We started off the season well, but, after Christmas, we hit a rough patch and lost a couple games,” said starting forward Bill Luther.

The Mountain Cats have not been playing the easiest conference teams, but they have still managed to compete with the powerful members and they can beat them, according to Luther.

The men’s team lost by nine points to West Liberty, ranked No. 1 in the country, according to the Division II coaches’ poll.

Before the season started, Head Coach Bob Rukavina said the two games against West Liberty would be the hardest, but said his team has a chance beat them.

The team was down only five points at half time to West Liberty and was tied with them with less than 12 minutes remaining.

But the Mountain Cats’ defense was unable to keep West Liberty from scoring, but Luther said he believes they may have a shot at victory at their home game.

“It was a tough loss, but we feel like we have the formula and game plan to beat them at home,” Luther said.

The Mountain Cats take on West Liberty for their second-to-last conference game Feb. 21 at the Pitt-Johnstown Sports Center.

West Liberty is 14-0  as of Jan. 15 and are ranked first in the nation in Division II.

“I’ve never been to a game yet, but if the team has any chance to knock off the No. 1 team, I’m going to go,” said freshman Bobby Meyer.

“I usually go to some of the games, but, this year, I haven’t been as interested until I heard they could take out the No. 1 ranked team in the country,” said senior Michael.

The team was picked to finish eighth in the conference and is in the ninth spot. They have a 5-6 record in conference games.

Overall, the Mountain Cats have won eight. Every loss has been in conference play.

Team Manager Travis Crump said, even with all the conference losses, he still thinks they can finish the season strong.

“The guys work hard every practice and I believe when they are all in sync they could probably beat anyone, including West Liberty,” Crump said.

Luther said the team’s defense and rebounding are keys to winning.

“If we can continue those two things, we can be successful,” Luther said.