By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – For years up at Delaware Valley College, most of the stories of athletic excellence at this time of year have been reserved for the outstanding wrestling program on campus. Well, that squad remains among the elite in the country, but these days they have some company on the ladder of success.
The Del Val men’s basketball team is 17-7 and riding a nine-game winning streak. The 17 wins have already tied the school record for a single season and with a victory on the road on Saturday against FDU-Florham, the Aggies will clinch the number one seed for the upcoming Freedom Conference tournament.
Casey Stitzel is the head coach of this Delaware Valley College squad and two seasons ago he led he led them to their first ever Freedom Conference title and berth in the NCAA Tournament. This season, Del Val got off to a rather pedestrian 5-5 start and sat at 8-7 before they started this winning streak.
Listen to Matt Leon’s interview with Casey Stitzel:
“We really struggled the first semester on the road,” Stitzel tells KYW Newsradio. “We had a couple of bad road losses, both in league and then non-conference games. When we strung about two or three in a row on the road, then turned around and beat De Sales here (in Doylestown on January 30th) in a very big game, I had a feeling that maybe we have a shot to get back to the NCAA Tournament and get back to the MAC Freedom championship game.”
This Delaware Valley College squad is being led by Jeremy Beckett. The 6’5″, senior center/forward is averaging a double-double at 16.3 points and 11.2 rebounds a game. He also blocks almost three shots a game.
“Jeremy’s had his best year,” Stitzel says. “Two years ago when we were really good, he really fed off James Jones, our All-American point guard, and played a really good second scoring role. Got a lot of transition buckets and got a lot of lay ups by playing off James. This year he’s been able to expand his game where he scores the ball inside, he’s actually developed a lot better 15-footer. And more importantly, Jeremy can change the game so much on the defensive end from the defensive rebounding standpoint and shot blocking.”
While, Beckett has been a force on the glass, Stitzel says he needs other guys to some help him out in that area if this Aggie success is going to continue.
“If we have one Achilles heel, it’s we gave up 18 offensive rebounds (on Tuesday), that is something we have to work on,” Stitzel says. “The games that we’ve won, that we’ve played the best during this nine-game winning streak is when we’ve been even or better on the glass. When we look back next Saturday, if we’re playing for a championship and we don’t get that championship, I have a bad feeling it’s going to come back to rebounding. And I think if we do get that championship, I think we’re going to look at that rebounding stat.”
Del Val gets outrebounded by about four a game, on average.
The Aggies and FDU-Florham will tip-off at 3:00pm on Saturday.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.