Wabash used balanced scoring to defeat 13th-ranked Wittenberg 96-83 Wednesday evening at Chadwick Court to remain undefeated in North Coast Athletic Conference games for the season. The Little Giants improved to 13-1 overall and 7-0 in NCAC contests, the best start to an NCAC season in school history.
Five Wabash players scored in double figures, led by the 20-point effort of NCAC Men's Basketball Player of the Week Jack Davidson. The sophomore guard shot 6-of-13 from field, playing through an illness. Harrison Hallstrom and Tyler Watson each added 18 points. Alex Eberhard chipped in 13 points by going 3-of-3 from the field including a 2-for-2 effort from three-point range along with a 5-of-6 performance from the free throw line. Connor Rotterman, who missed the last game for Wabash with a back injury, came off the bench for the 20th-ranked Little Giants to score 10 points.
Wittenberg (11-3, 5-2 NCAC) took an early 2-0 lead on a basket by Jake Bertemes before Wabash responded with back-to-back baskets from Hallstrom to move in front 4-2. The visiting Tigers tied the score at 4-4 and again at 6-6 on two more shots from Bertemes before the Little Giants moved in front by six points after a bucket by Eberhard and back-to-back scores by Davidson. Wittenberg kept close, eventually tying the game at 18-18 on a pair of free throws by Ridge Young with 9:11 remaining in the first half.
That was the point of the game when Wabash began to pull away from the Tigers. The Little Giants put together a 15-5 scoring run over the next four minutes for a 33-23 lead. Wittenberg cut the advantage to six points at 35-29 with 2:43 on the first-period game clock only to have Wabash end the half with a 6-0 run for a 41-29 lead at the break. The Little Giants shot an impressive 18-of-30 (60 percent) from the field in the first period despite managing to connect on only 3-of-10 three-point shots.
Wittenberg opened the second period with a three-point basket from Mitchell Balser, foreshadowing an unbelievable second-half performance for the Tiger senior after going scoreless in the first half. The Little Giants, however, expanded their lead with a 13-2 run for a 54-34 advantage five minutes into the period. The lead hovered around 20 points for the next nine minutes before Balser sparked a rally for the Tigers. He got Wittenberg as close as 11 points with 3:09 left in the game thanks to a 34-point second-half effort from the senior. The Little Giants closed out the half with eight points from Davidson along with free throws from Rotterman and Watson to finish with the 13-point win.
Wabash entered the game ranked second among Division III teams in field goal percentage defense, allowing opposing teams to shoot 35.1 percent from the field. The Little Giants held Wittenberg to 27-of-67 shooting for the game for 40.3 percent, below the 48.6-percent effort the Tigers held coming into the contest. Wabash shot 32-of-57 for the game for 56.1 percent despite connecting on only 5-of-18 three-point tries for 27.8 percent. Wittenberg held a 35-33 advantage in rebounding, led by Balser with eight boards. Hallstrom grabbed eight rebounds to pace the Little Giants.
Bertemes added 14 points for Wittenberg, while Landon Martin came off the bench to score 11 points for the Tigers.
The Little Giants defeated Wittenberg at home for the first time since the 2011-2012 season as well as earning the first victory versus the Tigers in the last five meetings between the two teams. The win also marked the first time since the 2011-2012 campaign that Wabash earned home wins over both Wittenberg and Wooster. The Little Giants defeated Wooster 62-60 earlier this season at Chadwick Court.
The victory puts Wabash one game ahead of Wooster (11-3, 6-1 NCAC) in the conference standings. The Little Giants travel to Gambier, Ohio on Saturday to play Kenyon College at 2 p.m.