The Wittenberg Tigers took on the DePauw University Tigers on Jan. 24. Wittenberg went into the game with a 17-0 record while the DePauw Tigers came in at 7-10. The game started off slow and ended with a 76-64 victory for Wittenberg, putting them at 18-0 this season. The Tigers are currently ranked number one in the NCAC and are the only team that has gone undefeated this season. As far as national rankings, the Tigers sit at number three for Division III beneath Whitman College and Washington University.
This season has been filled with many victories and exciting moments for the Wittenberg Tigers, including Head Coach Matt Croci’s 100th win as head coach and Connor Seipel, ’20, being named NCAC Player of the Week on Jan. 20. In January alone, the Tigers have conquered six teams, including The College of Wooster and Wabash College, with one more game remaining this month.
During the game on Wednesday, Wittenberg started Chad Roy, ’18, Mitchell Balser, ’19, Jordan Pumroy, ’20, Rashaad Ali-Shakir, ’21 and Seipel. They had many other players touch the court including James Johnson, ’21, Jordan Welch, ’21, Mark Fair II, ’20, and Tanner Cowgill, ’20, with the exception of Jacob Bertemes, ’20, who has appeared in every other game thus far this season.
Coming out to start the game, DePauw made the first layup, but it was followed up by a 2-point shot from Roy. After those first points, the half was slow moving, but by the end, Wittenberg had turned up the heat. With eight seconds left in the half, DePauw forward Josh Hall took a 3-point attempt that was botched; Balser snagged the defensive rebound and drove the ball back up the court to sink a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded.
“I was really proud of our toughness and grit to grind out a win,” Croci said. “We played really well defensively in the first half and had a couple spurts on the offensive end that made the difference.”
Heading into the locker room, Wittenberg was ahead 37-16.
Coming out of the locker room, Roy, Balser and Ali-Shakir were putting up points left and right. With every shot that DePauw made, Wittenberg came back twice as hard driving up to the basket. Several Tigers, on both sides, made attempts at 3-point shots but very few made it through the hoop.
The most unique play of the night belonged to Pumroy, in the second half, who was at the line for his third of eight free-throw attempts that night. The free-throw did not quite make it to the basket, so he ran up and got an offensive rebound that turned into a tip-in. The crowd and the bench went crazy with excitement and pride. The game rounded out with two more free-throws from Pumroy and a turnover by Cowgill. When the buzzer sounded, the song “That’s The Way (I Like It)” by KC and The Sunshine Band played.
Leading scorer for the night was Balser with a total of 23 points, nine of which were made by 3-point shots. He also led in assists with a total of four. Roy led in rebounds for the night, with nine. Wittenberg scored a total of 36 points in the paint, had two fast break points and scored 13 points off turnovers. This season the Tigers are averaging 83.1 points a game with 39.8 rebounds and 15.9 assists.
“Overall – This has been a fun group to coach,” Croci said. “They play for each other, they compete in practice and work on improving every day. We’ve had good leadership from our seniors, Chad Roy, Chris Sloneker and Logan Boyd. We have a lot of basketball left to play with some really challenging games. The goal is to keep improving and play our best basketball at the end of the season.”
Later in the week, the Tigers took on Denison and advanced to 19-0. The Tigers are back in action on Jan. 31, facing off against Kenyon at home.