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Bearcat basketball blazes by early competitionMen’s basketball boasts 5-0 record before Thanksgiving break

By Jacob Rzempoluch, Sports Editor

Originally Published November 14, 2023

The Saint Vincent College (SVC) men’s basketball team has had an explosive start to the season. Undefeated after five games, the Bearcats seem set to improve on their 15-11 2022-23 campaign that ended with a first round President’s Athletic Conference (PAC) tournament loss as a seven seed. Their undefeated stretch is the program’s best start since the 2008-09 season. This year, SVC was selected to finish fourth in the preseason PAC coaches' poll, behind the Washington & Jefferson Presidents, the Chatham Cougars, and the Allegheny Gators.

“Really what the whole summer was about was trying to get back to that standard, that winning culture,” said Mike Iuzzolino, junior mathematics and engineering major, referring to the team’s past success under Head Coach D.P. Harris. “We had a decent year last year, but it wasn’t as successful as what we wanted it to be.”

The Bearcat starting lineup consists of four returning players from last year’s team and one junior college transfer. Miami Dade College transfer Dev Ostrowski, sophomore undeclared major, joins Tayler McNeal, senior communication major; Osyon Jones, senior business management major; Jaden Gales, sophomore visual arts major; and Iuzzolino to form a young but experienced team. Last season, Gales made an immediate impact as a standout freshman, earning PAC Newcomer of the Year and Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Rookie of the Year honors. Gales was noted as a PAC Player to watch alongside teammates Iuzzolino and Ostrowski.

Dev Ostrowski has had a massive impact in his first season with Saint Vincent (SOURCE: JULIE WATKINS)

The Bearcat’s first game of the season was a Nov. 8 home win against the Carlow Celtics. The 57-95 victory was the program’s largest winning margin since a 101-57 victory over Washington & Jefferson on Feb. 10, 2016. After pulling ahead 4-6 with a three, SVC would never trail the Celtics. On Nov. 11, the Bearcats recorded a 73-103 win against the Penn State-Fayette Nittany Lions. Gales shot 10-14 for a 22-point night while Iuzzolino recorded ten assists and 13 points for a double-double. After two big nonconference wins, SVC would face defending PAC champion Chatham in their Nov. 15 conference opener.

Chatham started out strong, scoring five points before an Ostrowski layup put SVC on the scoreboard. The Bearcats pulled ahead 9-11 after another Ostrowski bucket in the paint and would only trail the Cougars once for the rest of the game. With 1:30 left in the first half, Chatham had finally retaken a one-point lead. A Jones layup, a Gales layup, and another Jones layup from a fastbreak put the Bearcats up 34-39 at the half.

Osyon Jones dunks the win against Westminster (SOURCE: JULIE WATKINS)

The Bearcats then built a 21-point lead ten minutes into the second half. However, the Cougars fought back and took advantage of every Bearcat mistake to whittle down the lead. With a minute and a half left, Chatham had brought the score to 74-80, outscoring SVC 22-7 over the previous eight minutes. A Chatham layup took the Bearcat lead down to three with 45 seconds left. Free throws from Gales gave Saint Vincent a small cushion before another Chatham layup.

The Cougars desperately fouled Jones, who sealed the game for the Bearcats with two made free throws. The Bearcats won 79-84.

For their next matchup, the Bearcats faced the Westminster Titans at home on Nov. 18. After the Bearcats started to pull ahead early in the first half, the Titans fought back and held a 34-30 lead at halftime. Saint Vincent remained close as play resumed, with a Jones dunk electrifying the Carey Center; however, Westminster still held onto the lead. Midway through the half, Ostrowski made a three to tie the game 48-48 before recording six more points in 70 seconds. The Titans would stay close for most of the second half, but this shift in momentum proved to be too much. The Bearcats built a steady lead enlarged by free throws to win 64-78. Ostrowski was recognized as PAC Player of the Week for his performance in the Chatham and Westminster games, which included 25.0 points per game while shooting 17-38 from the field and 60% for three-pointers.

SVC had its first test on the road on Nov. 21. Facing the Thiel Tomcats, the Bearcats pulled away early, building an 18-point lead at halftime after taking the lead seven minutes into the game. A 30-point game from Ostrowski that increased his average points per PAC game to 26.7 kept the Bearcats comfortably ahead throughout the second half. The 90-70 Victory places the Bearcats in a tie with the Geneva Golden Tornadoes for first in the PAC.

“Traditionally all the teams I have coached over the years have been high octane,” said Harris. “We want to get up and down the court and score a lot of points, and we want to be fun to watch.”

The Bearcats have not won the PAC basketball championship since the 2015-16 season, but it is hard for fans not to get excited about the potential of this year’s team. So far, each SVC home game has been attended by crowds of students and fans. The homecourt advantage created by this positive energy can help swing a game towards a victory for the host.

The Bearcats face the Waynesburg Yellowjackets on the road on Dec. 2 before a Dec. 4 rematch against Penn State-Fayette kicks off a weeklong home stretch of games against the Grove City Wolverines (Dec. 6) and Geneva (Dec. 9).


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