Men's Basketball: Panthers take on N.C. Wesleyan in crucial USA South game

Men's Basketball: Panthers take on N.C. Wesleyan in crucial USA South game

The LaGrange men's basketball team starts a four-game homestand with a crucial USA South game against N.C. Wesleyan on Saturday at 4 p.m. in Mariotti Gym.

The Panthers (14-5, 5-3 USA South) are one game back of the Battling Bishops (13-6, 6-2 USA South) in the conference standings. Both teams are chasing current conference leader Covenant (12-7, 7-2 USA South).

The Panthers are coming off an impressive 94-87 road win against Averett, the preseason pick to win the USA South regular season title. Senior guard Braxton Ford led all scorers with 22 points.

Ford is averaging 18.0 points per game in his last four starts. He has scored 20 or more in three of the four games, including a career-high 26 against Piedmont.

Junior Justyn Olson leads five Panthers in double figures, averaging 14.8 points per game. Senior Mark Wagner follows at 14.6, then Ford at 11.2. Junior Drew Vanderbrook is averaging 10.6 points and sophomore Alex Bonner averages 10.3.

Olson and Wagner rank 2-3 in the conference in steals, with 41 and 40 respectively. Wagner leads the team with 54 assists, which is 11th in the conference.

As a team, the Panthers are averaging a conference-best 86.0 points per game. They are second in both free throws made (366) and free throws attempted (518). The Panthers are tied for second with a 70.7 free throw percentage.

The Panthers are tied for second in the league in steals, averaging 10.6 per game. They are third in assists, averaging 14.8 per game.

The Bishops enter Saturday's game the winners of four straight and are 8-2 in their last 10 games.

Senior guard is averaging a team-best 14.3 points per game. Fellow senior Brandon Brown is averaging 13.3 points per game and leads the team in rebounding, averaging 6.2 per game.

The series between the teams is tied 4-4. The Panthers won last year's meeting 83-73 at N.C. Wesleyan and are 2-1 in Mariotti Gym against the Bishops.