PHOTOS COURTESY OF WABASH COLLEGE ATHLETICS & CODEY EMERSON/JOURNAL REVIEW
Wabash men’s basketball has just four losses this season. One of them to arch rival DePauw back on Jan. 14 in Greencastle in an 86-80 defeat. Wednesday it was revenge time for the Little Giants as they welcome the Tigers to Chadwick Court for a key late-season North Coast Athletic Conference showdown. Early on the Tigers came out and held an early 9-2 lead, but fast to the 6:52 mark of the opening half where Gavin Schippert gave the Little Giants a 21-20 lead and Wabash never looked back as they held off DePauw for an 89-79 win.
At halftime the score read 38-32 Little Giants then both teams came out of the locker rooms and seemingly couldn’t miss as each team traded baskets left and right. Wabash continued to hold serve the closest the Tigers could get was a single point at 60-59 at the 11:35 mark of the second half. Up 800-74 with 1:46 left junior Sam Comer drilled a dagger three then proceeded to go 2-2 from the foul line to seal the Little Giant victory.
“First and foremost give a big time shout out to the Chadwick Crazies and our fans for showing out tonight,” Wabash coach Kyle Brumett said after the win. “We want to keep environments like tonight going. The second half was completely different than the first and we have to be able to win in different ways. The pace and possessions as well the fouls went way up in the second and our guys were prepared for the moment.”
The duo of Ahmoni Jones and Vinny Buccilla carried the Little Giants for much of the game as Jones led all scorers with 27 while Buccilla tied a career high with 25 on a stellar 10-13 from the field and 5-7 from three. Comer added 14 while Josh Whack scored 14 for Wabash. Afterwards the duo noted how their chemistry and play on the court led the Little Giants to another big-time win.
“If we both have games like tonight, then we’re an extremely difficult team to stop,” Buccilla said. “Also we have plenty of other talented guys too. Sam hit the biggest shot of the game so if they try to take one or both of us away, it shows what a great team we have.”
“We wanted to remind everyone that we’re still here and going to continue to battle,” Jones added. “At the end of the day the ball is in our hands and it’s up to us. We wanted to finish strong and that’s what we did.”
In just over a minute span early in the second half, Jones scored eight straight points for the Little Giants. Buccilla who since the calendar year began (nine games) has to really find his groove averaging just over 17 points per game. It’s something that Brumett has really been impressed with from his sophomore guard.
“This is the kind of player we thought he could be when we recruited him,” he said. “He’s still young and his role from last season to now has probably changed as much as anyone in the country having to help replace Jack and Tyler. He’s ready for it now and I don’t know if he really was when the season started. It took some adjusting but he’s really showing us what he can at 6’3 180 lbs. We’ve encouraged him to play physical and aggressive and you’re starting to see that.”
For the game Wabash was 31-53 (58.5%) from the field, 10-25 (40%) from three, and 17-19 (89.5%) from the foul line. DePauw went 29-64 (45%) from the field, 8-22 (36%) from three, and 13-17 (76.5%) from the charity stripe. The Tigers were led in scoring by freshman Sam Jacobs who scored a career high 21 points in the loss. Elijah Hales added 18.
“We just couldn’t string enough stops together when we needed to and that’s what the game came down to,” first-year Tigers coach Rusty Loyd said. “You have to give Wabash credit because they have guys who’ve been to that final four atmosphere and the wears and tears of it all. Sam played really for us especially considering this isn’t an easy place to play. Some times we can get caught watching Elijah try to make plays by himself, but Sam tonight was great at cutting to the basket and playing downhill.”
With the win Wabash improves to 16-4 (9-2 NCAC) with the win. DePauw falls to 14-7 on the season and 6-6 in conference play.
Wabash returns to the friendly confines of Chadwick Court on Saturday for a very special and important game against Ohio Wesleyan, the team they share second place in the NCAC with. Along with the game at 2 pm, it will also be alumni day as the 1982 National Championship team will be honored during the game.
“We’re going to honor Merlin (Nice) who we unfortunately lost earlier this season,” Brumett said about Saturday. “He meant a lot to me and even more to Coach (Mac) Petty. One of the best things about small college athletics is that when you’re done here at Wabash, you still have all of those memories with your teammates. We want our teams to love each other and be great Wabash men. That’s how Coach Petty’s team were and it’s going to be special to have all of those guys back on Saturday.”