SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — The Wittenberg Tigers put together perhaps their finest defensive effort of the 2010-11 season, clamping down on the seventh-ranked Wabash Little Giants in a 55-54 victory.
Wittenberg’s eighth consecutive win moved the Tigers to 12-4 overall and, more importantly, 7-0 in the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC). Wabash has now lost two of its last three games after a 13-0 start, although those two losses have come by a combined total of a scant three points.
Wabash had the best of the early action, moving out to a 20-10 lead at the 10:55 mark on a three-pointer by Derek Bailey. The Tigers responded with nine consecutive points to get right back into the game. The Little Giants held a 29-24 edge at the intermission, despite a half-court shot just after the horn by Wittenberg junior Alex Brandt (Lewis Center, Ohio/Olentangy) that was waved off.
An 8-3 Wittenberg run to open the second half evened things up at 32-32 with 16:11 remaining, and neither team led by more than seven points the rest of the way. With the score tied at 40, Tiger senior Seth Hill (Bellefontaine, Ohio/Bellefontaine) hit a lay-up at the 10:10 mark to spark a 9-2 run, which the Little Giants promptly matched, capped by another trey by Bailey at the 1:27 mark to tie the game at 51-51.
The Tigers were patient on their ensuing possession, and they were rewarded with a short jump shot by junior Michael Cooper (Springfield, Ohio/South) with 1:01 left to go. Wabash was just as patient at the other end, missing a three-pointer but getting an offensive rebound before calling a timeout. The Tigers scrambled well when play resumed, and Hill came up with the play of the game with a steal against Wabash guard Wes Smith, the conference’s leading scorer. Senior Chris Sullivan (Columbus, Ohio/Upper Arlington) then iced the game with a pair of free throws with six seconds remaining, before Smith hit an off-balance three-pointer at the buzzer.
Wittenberg hit 41 percent from the field, while Wabash finished at 39 percent, and neither team was productive from three-point range, making just 11-of-45 shots from distance combined. The Tigers made four more free throws in the game, Wabash had the edge in rebounding 39-29 and Wittenberg had the advantage in turnovers, committing nine to the Little Giants’ 13.
Individually, junior Clayton Black (Lancaster, Ohio/Lancaster) led with 14 points, four rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals, while Sullivan contributed 13 points. Cooper added eight points, three rebounds and three assists, Hill finished with six points (all in the second half) and six rebounds, and sophomore Cameron Walton (Waterville, Ohio/Anthony Wayne) chipped in with eight points and four boards.
The Tigers will put their win streak on the line at No. 1-ranked Wooster at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 22. The Scots are unbeaten in the 2010-11 season.