Another feather goes in the cap of the Wabash basketball team, as they defeated No.13 Wittenberg 96-83 Wednesday at Chadwick Court.
The win for Wabash, ranked No. 20 in that same DIII poll, keeps them unbeaten in the NCAC as they now stand 7-0 after downing the Tigers, who were tied with Wooster for second.
They stand at 12-1 on the season, and the 7-0 conference start is a new school NCAC record, besting the 1991-2000 team that started 6-0. The win over Wittenberg is the first at home since 2012 in a series that has been dominated by the Tigers.
It started and finished with defense.
“We hang our hats on our defense,” Wabash coach Kyle Brumett said, “and our defense in the first half was exactly how we drew it up. We want to take the strengths of the other team away, and in that first half, we were as good as we’ve been all season.”
After a slow start, the Little Giants got streaks of six, eight and seven in the ensuing 10 minutes to open up a 10-point lead. A 6-0 run to close the half had the Sphinx Club and fans howling made it a 41-29 score and the Tigers knew they were in for a long night.
The lead got to as many as 22 in the second half, and the visitors whittled the lead down to as few as 11, but a free-throw parade closed the game, and Wabash keeps its perfect home record intact at 8-0.
“We really bothered their big guy,” Brumett said of the defense. “We committed to packing it inside and we did what we needed to do. After the slow start we really shot well in the first half, then we got off to a good start in the second. We needed to be aggressive offensively, and we got that too.”
The offense hung another 90 on the scoreboard, the sixth time this season.
Five players, four starters and one off the bench, were in double figures.
Wabash shot 60 percent from the floor in first half and finished at 56 percent. The Tigers, in comparison, were 40 percent from the floor.
The leading scorer for the Little Giants was Jack Davidson. The current NCAC Player of the week, 14th in the nation in scoring at 22.9, had 20. The sophomore was a perfect 8-of-8 from the line.
Harrison Hallstrom and Tyler Watson each had 18. Hallstrom was game-best with eight rebounds, and Watson was 9-of-11 from the line.
Alex Eberhard had 13 and Connor Rotterman came off the bench to add 10.
“Watson and Rotterman gave us big lifts,” Brumett said, “and Hallstrom played like the best big man in the conference tonight. Our young guys continue to grow and learn, and our older guys like Eberhard and (Ben) Stachowski are coaches on the floor. They are really vocal.”
The Little Giants took away the Tigers inside game, holding leading scorer Connor Seipel to half his 16 ppg average. Wabash held a plus-eight margin on paint points.
The only bright spot offensively for Wittenberg was Mitch Balser, who scored 34 points in the second half after a scoreless first. His season-high was 25 points over his average.
The Wabash defense was supplemented by another game of less than 10 turnovers.
“We need a shot every possession,” Brumett said of taking care of the ball. “Not turning it over goes hand in hand with being a great defensive team. We pay for turnovers in practice with every drill.”
The home wins over Wittenberg and Wooster already this season is the first time since the 2011-12 season that the traditional conference powers have lost at Wabash in the same season.
The Little Giants are on the road Saturday with a trip to Kenyon, who was in last place in the conference going into last night.
“We can’t take a step backwards,” Brumett said of his charges. “We stay in our routines, we stay with all our schedules. Last Saturday we had guys off the bench who were outstanding. Tonight we had four starters in double figures and we played good defense. We just have to keep finding ways to win.”
The next home game is next Wednesday when DePauw comes to Mac Petty Court. Tipoff is 7 p.m.