It's interesting to think about the men's basketball matchup between Saint Francis and Indiana Wesleyan. Most fans who follow the Crossroads League would view this as a rivalry game, but it really has been a one-sided rivalry during the regular season.
The Wildcats have won 13 of the past 16 games with the Cougars, but two of Saint Francis' three wins have come in the league tournament in each of the past two seasons, so the Cougars tend to stick in the minds of many of the Indiana Wesleyan faithful.
The two squads will battle in Marion at 5 p.m. today.
“The thing that Indiana Wesleyan does is that they all play to their roles very well,” Saint Francis coach Chad LaCross said. “They are going to work their offense, if they don't have anything in transition; they are going to force you to make a mistake defensively.”
The sixth-ranked Wildcats (18-2, 7-1 CL) are tied with Bethel for first place in the conference, while Saint Francis (13-7, 5-3) is tied for fourth with 12th-ranked Grace, knocked off Saturday by the Cougars.
“We've been more patient offensively,” LaCross said of his team's recent play. “Defensively, we've been pretty solid all year. I've been very pleased and proud of the guys' effort defensively.”
One of those “guys” that has played well, particularly against Grace, has been Brad Sneary.
“The biggest thing with Brad is confidence,” LaCross said. “He knows that he doesn't have to think about making a mistake and coming back to the bench.”
The Snider High School center has seen his game elevate to levels not seen since early in his career with the Cougars.
After a tremendous high school career, Sneary came to Saint Francis with high expectations. When he scored 21 points in his first game that just fueled those expectations. But for one reason or another, his performance never seemed to match his potential. Until this year.
Sneary averaged nearly six points and five rebounds as a freshman, but the 6-foot-6 post player saw his averages plummet to less than two points and rebounds as a sophomore. He bounced back last season to average more than three points and rebounds, but this season has been a statistical revelation for him.
“If he catches the ball and is able to go up and score, and not have to worry about getting it blocked,” LaCross said, “he's awfully good, especially when he's rebounding, being aggressive and attacking.”
Sneary did that against the Lancers.
He totaled 15 points and as many rebounds in 34 minutes of action. Sneary added a pair of steals and blocked shots as well.
It was the fourth time this season he had grabbed double-figure rebounds and sixth time that he's scored in double figures. Sneary is carrying averages of more than eight points per game and nearly seven rebounds per outing.
“We've kind of simplified things for Brad and his confidence level is a lot higher than it has been the last few years,” LaCross said.