MARIETTA, Ohio -- Wittenberg’s Clayton Black expected the Tigers’ first-round NCAA game with La Roche to be physical.

But he never expected Wittenberg (20-8) would build as much as a 22-point lead and eventually win 74-68 without leading scorer Chris Sullivan making a single basket Friday night at Ban Johnson Arena.

“That’s definitely a surprise,” said Black, who finished with 22 points.

Wittenberg coach Bill Brown was pleased with the Tigers’ overall performance, including a dominant first-half that gave them a 42-26 advantage.

“For us to score 74 points and have such good team balance tonight, I hope that bodes well for us,” he said. “We’re moving on and that’s what it’s all about now.”

For La Roche (25-3) it was the end of a special season, but also an extremely emotional one. In December, La Roche coach Scott Lang died during a practice. The Redhawks rallied behind their fallen coach to win the AMCC.

Harry Jenkins took over as the interim coach and he heaped praise on his team -- especially his seniors -- Laron Mann and Nate Wojciechowski following Friday’s loss.

“These seniors led us to a marvelous season … it’s a real credit to those guys,” said an emotional Jenkins. “After the game we were talking about what Coach Lang meant to this program and what he has provided us. We really developed a bond after his death and that bond helped us get here.”

Now Jenkins said the Redhawks, who have a strong nucleus returning, will focus on 2011-12.

“We have a very strong league so it’s not going to be easy, but we want to get back here again,” he said.

But it’s no guarantee. Just ask Wittenberg, which is a regular participant, has waited six years to return.

Still, the Tigers took advantage of the opportunity and will now play the winner of Marietta-Centre at 7 p.m. Saturday for a spot in the Quarterfinals.

Wittenberg was led by Michael Cooper, who ignited the Tigers with four three-point baskets in the first. He finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds.

“I was just able to knock it down,” Cooper said.

Don’t overlook the strong performance of Alex Brandt, who chipped in with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Seth Hill added 11 points in 25 minutes off the bench.

Mann paced La Roche with 14 points, while Mike Dixon added 13 and David Jackson had 11 points and 11 rebounds.