GAME PREVIEW: Pilots face Taylor in pivotal road matchup

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It's crunch time. As the Pilots prepare to hit the road for a matchup against the Trojans of Taylor University on Tuesday night, they stand at a pivotal point of their season. With only two games left on the regular season schedule, there's not much time left before postseason play.
Matt Schauss goes up for a shot against Taylor on Jan. 21.
Matt Schauss goes up for a shot against Taylor on Jan. 21.
Bethel is currently tied for third in the Crossroads League behind Indiana Wesleyan and Huntington. The Pilots missed a golden opportunity to move into sole possession of second place last week when they lost on the road against Huntington. Now, their destiny is not entirely in their own control. One thing is in their control: they must beat Taylor on Tuesday night. The Trojans are near the bottom of the Crossroads League standings with a 4-12 conference record. However, as Mount Vernon showed Saturday afternoon, a poor record does not mean they can't give the Pilots a scare. The only other meeting between the two teams this season came on Jan. 21, with the Pilots winning 84-70 at home for Coach Lightfoot's 700th career win. Since then, Taylor has dropped seven of eight games, earning their lone win during overtime against Spring Arbor. As was the case with Saturday's game against Mount Vernon, it would be easy to overlook the Trojans ahead of a huge matchup against Grace coming up on Saturday. However, if the Pilots overlook Taylor and think they can waltz into Upland and beat the Trojans on their home court, they might be in trouble. Taylor has nothing to lose, and they would love to spoil any hopes the Pilots still have of winning the regular season title. By the way, those hopes are very slim. The Pilots have two games remaining on their regular season schedule. They need to win both, have both Indiana Wesleyan and Huntington lose their final two games and have St. Francis and Marian win no more than one. Crazier things have happened ... but not too many. Still, the Pilots need all the momentum they can get heading into the postseason. They need to be firing on all cylinders if they are going to win the conference tournament for a second year in a row. If they can't win either the regular season or tournament championship, then they especially need these last two wins to spice up their at-large tournament resume. The Pilots are coming off a tough, gritty 66-60 win over Mount Vernon Nazarene University, who is second-to-last in the Crossroads League. A win is a win, but the Pilots should really be showing that they belong at the top of the league by taking care of the opponents that they should take care of. Taylor falls in that category, and a blowout on Tuesday night would go a long way to securing momentum for the Pilots to close out their season strong. The Pilots received some good news on Monday, as star guard Zach Miller was named to the Capital One Academic All-American Second Team. He and senior guard Ryan Benner have been the stars for the Pilots this season. Miller dominated the competition with his sharp shooting to start the season and is second in the nation in three point field goals made and third in three-point percentage. As the year has progressed, however, Benner has shown that this is his team. Benner scored 30 points in a game six times this season and earned the third-highest single-game point total in Pilot history when he scored 43 against the University of Windsor on Dec. 30, 2013. While Miller and Brenner have grabbed the headlines, it has been the talent of junior point guard Matt Schauss that has really driven the Pilots success. Schauss is third on the team with 14.4 points per game (PPG). He leads the team in assists and is the Pilots' second leading rebounder ... as a point guard. The Pilots will face a Taylor attack that is led by guard Kyle Stidom, who is averaging 17.2 PPG on the season. Taylor won't bust any box scores - they average 70 PPG as a team. However, they will be on their home court, and they will bring their best against the Pilots. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.  
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