RALEIGH, NC – Coming off an exciting comeback win at Ferrum over the weekend, the William Peace men's basketball team vies for their fifth straight win Wednesday night, hosting NC Wesleyan at 7:30 p.m.
The Pacers are 9-9 overall and second in the USA South at 5-2. WPU is six points away from being undefeated in conference play after being picked to finish last in the preseason coach's poll. NC Wesleyan has been trending in the opposite direction having lost three in a row. After getting off to a 4-1 start in conference play, the Battling Bishops are 4-4 now, good for fourth place, with a 10-9 overall record.
A number of different Pacers have come up big for head coach Claude Shields this year including Shawn Shaffer, the team's second leading scorer (13.5/g) and rebounder (5.4/g). The senior from Cary, NC dropped 18 of his 22 points in the second half to spark WPU's 16-point, second half comeback win at Ferrum this past Saturday. Shaffer was also featured on D3Hoops.Com in a column written by Brian Lester, which can be viewed HERE.
Shaffer is one of three players for WPU averaging between 13.4 and 13.6 points per game, all three of whom rank among the top 10 scorers in the conference. Nate Strother leads the team at 13.6 points and 3.2 rebounds per contest. Chris Thomas falls third in line at 13.4 points per game and is the team's leading rebounder (6/g).
Strother also came through in the clutch against Ferrum, hitting a pair of game winning free-throws after he took it coast-to-coast and drew a foul with less than a second left. While his two biggest points of the year came at the line, Strother has done most of his damage this year from beyond the arc. He makes nearly three triples a game to lead WPU, who ranks seventh in the country as a team with 10.2 three-point goals per game.
WPU's third ranked scoring offense in the USA South (77.5 ppg) is directed by senior point guard Michael Wolf who ranks first in the conference and seventh in the entire nation for assist to turnover ratio (3.24). Jalen Vince has also become a key playmaker and distributor, leading the team and ranking fourth in the conference with 3.3 assists per game. Wolf is seventh in the conference at 3.1 assists per game, while Terry Rogers' 2.8 assists per game ranks 11th in the league. In addition, Bryson Gibsonis fourth in the USA South for assist to turnover ratio (2.1).
Wednesday will be a battle of two contrasting styles of play, as NC Wesleyan is one of the top defensive teams in the conference. Eric Dortch-Jones leads the charge scoring 18.5 points per game. He is also second on the team with 5.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists.