Senior Sports Writer
The College of Wooster men’s basketball team suffered an 88-81 loss against the Tigers of Wittenberg University on Saturday, Feb. 15 in Springfield, Ohio. The Scots are now 17-6 overall and 11-5 in the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) and as of Tuesday, Feb. 18 are in third place, one game behind Wabash College. The Tigers, with the win, are now the outright regular season champions and will be the No. 1 seed in the NCAC tournament starting on Tuesday, Feb. 25. They are 22-1 overall and 15-1 in the NCAC with only a few regular season games remaining. Even if Wittenberg lost the rest of their regular season games, they’d still have the No. 1 seed. This game marked the 121st overall meeting between both teams and Wittenberg now has the 61-60 edge over the Fighting Scots.
Wittenberg came out strong in the first half, eventually go- ing up 35-30 at halftime. Offensive rebounds were the main difference-maker for the Tigers as they converted on many second-chance opportunities.
The Tigers had nine offensive rebounds in the first half and were up 27-17 with 6:26 left. The Scots, down by ten at the time, were in need of a scorer to step up and knock down some shots. Danyon Hempy ’20 and Dontae Williams ’21 accounted for 15 of the Scots’ first 17 points, but J.G. Gillard ’22 and Khaylen Mahdi ’22 were the two players that stepped up to add to the scoring for the Scots, eventually helping the team trim the deficit to only five at halftime. The sophomores scored ten points to make it a 33-27 game and then Keonn Scott ’21 made it a 35-30 game after he drained a three-pointer.
At halftime, Brandon Sty- ers ’22 described what Coach Steve Moore told his team. “He told us that this game is going to come down to who wants to win more. The team that is going to win is the team that wins every 50-50 ball and plays the best defense,” Styers said. Down five points with a decent score total, Trenton Tipton ’20 said Moore wanted more intensity and focus in the second half as Tipton described halftime being “about keeping our composure and understanding that the game was well within reach. He challenged us to play harder and pick up our intensity as well.”
The second half was a spectacle in offense. Both teams scored over 50 points in the second half. Keonn Scott ’21 and Danyon Hempy ’20 put up 17 and 12 points in the half. The Scots scored 51 points in total during the second half, respectively. Unfortunately, Wittenberg was able to match their high intensity with 53 points of their own to win the game. On Wittenberg’s offense, Styers said, “They [Wittenberg] have a lot of firepower on the offensive end, which makes them hard to guard.”
Given that Wooster took the first game against Wittenberg in January, the Tigers certainly had a lot to play for. Wooster dominated the first game as Styers described it as, “at home, we shot the lights out, but also played very good defense in the first half. Having gotten out to a fast start was important in that win.” The fast start from Wittenberg this time around proved to be the deciding factor. Styers said defense could have stopped
Wittenberg’s early streak, say- ing, “We would have gotten the job done if our team’s defense was better overall. In or- der to beat a great team, much like Wittenberg, having good, sound defense is crucial for success.”
All is not lost, however. Wooster still has two regular season games and can secure a No. 2 seed in the conference tournament to potentially avoid a rematch with Witten- berg until the finals. Tipton said that despite the loss, the season isn’t over: “Some things didn’t go the way we wanted, but we still have some games left and we know we still have a lot to play for, so we will learn from what happened, and bounce back on Wednesday.”