Veteran University of Scranton women’s basketball coach Mike Strong entered the season needing 12 victories to reach 800 for his career. When asked during the preseason about reaching the milestone, he replied in typical self-deprecating fashion.
“If we don’t win 11 games this year, I’m going to go try to become a better golfer,” he said with a chuckle.
On Saturday, the Lady Royals will attempt to win their 11th game this season, and consequently, give Strong the 800th victory of his career, which would make him the first coach in NCAA Division III women’s basketball history to reach that milestone.
To do so, Scranton will need to beat Landmark Conference rival Juniata in a game that tips off at 4 p.m. in the Long Center. The men’s teams from Juniata and Scranton will square off in the first game at 2 p.m.
The Lady Royals (10-2, 2-0 Landmark) enter Saturday’s contest on a seven-game winning streak, their longest since the 2010-11 season. Junior forward Meredith Mesaris (Fairfax, Va./Fairfax) leads the team in scoring at 18.5 points per game, while freshman forward Sarah Payonk (Schwenksville, Pa./Spring-Ford) is averaging a double-double with 11.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.
Juniata (7-5, 0-1 Landmark) is led by senior forward Kate McDonald (Pennsylvania Furnace, Pa./State College Area), who leads the Landmark Conference in scoring (19.1), rebounding (11.9) and steals (3.7).
Scranton and Juniata split their two regular season meetings last year, with each school winning on its home court.
The men’s game is a rematch of last season’s Landmark Conference semifinal in the Long Center, won by Juniata, 84-74, in double overtime. The Eagles erased a 10-point deficit in the final 3:43 of regulation, then outscored the Royals, 17-7, in the second overtime.
The Royals (10-2) are riding a five-game winning streak after posting three victories last week. Sophomore forward Brendan Boken (South Pasadena, Calif./Loyola) averaged 27.3 points and 9.0 rebounds in the three victories, earning him Landmark Conference Player of the Week and D3hoops.com Team of the Week honors.
Junior guard Ross Danzig (Clarks Green, Pa./Abington Heights/Blair Academy, N.J.) leads Scranton with 23.0 points per game while shooting 61.5 percent from the field, both of which lead the Landmark Conference.
Juniata (10-2, 1-0 Landmark) is led by senior guard Jeremy Hays (McMechen, W.V./John Marshall), who averages 16.6 points and 5.9 assists per game.
Tickets are $5 for adults (18-61) and $3 for students (8-17) and senior citizens (62 and older). All children ages seven and under accompanied by an adult will be admitted free. Students and staff members of Landmark Conference institutions will also admitted free.
Live stats and audio can be found online at athletics.scranton.edu/livestats/landing. Veteran announcer Dean Corwin will call all the action for both games.