GREENCASTLE - Wabash College traveled to North Coast Athletic Conference rival DePauw on Saturday leading the conference. Hot shooting by the Tigers sent Wabash packing by a score of 86-80 in a close and rugged game causing a log jam towards the top of the NCAC standings.
The Tigers shot 58 percent in the game which including connecting on 64 percent of their second half shots. The biggest culprit in the Little Giants side was senior Elijah Hales. After scoring only two points in the first half, the guard scored 31 points in the second half to lead all scores with 33 markers. Hales hits 10-of-14 shots in the game including 4-of-7 from behind the arch.
DePauw Coach Rusty Loyd said Hales is capable of getting hot in any game. In fact, Hale scored 29 first-half points in a win at Kalamazoo on December 22.
“Elijah is capable of scoring a lot of points at any given time,” Loyd said. “He got it going today and played a great game. The thing I liked the most was that he was able to score from outside and take the ball to the basket.”
Hales made a living at the free throw line by connecting on 9-of-10 attempts. DePauw outscored the Little Giants 22-18 at the charity stripe.
Wabash Coach Kyle Brummett gave Hales his do, but also said his team did not execute the defense like they had planned.
“I didn’t think we did a very good job,” Brummett said. “We fouled him way too much. It was an emphasis to not foul (DePauw) and we just did a horrible job.”
The game was close the entire way. Wabash’s biggest lead was six points while the Tigers never led by more than eight points.
After Wabash led at the half 34-30, the two teams battled back and forth. DePauw took the lead at the 13:56 mark by a score of 41-40, but Wabash answered and led 49-44 just three minutes later. The Tigers, behind the hot shooting of Hale, took the lead for good 53-52 at the 8:25 mark. The Little Giants trailed by just two points on three occasions before DePauw took their eight point lead with 2:52 remaining in the game. DePauw hit 11-of-14 free throws in the final 3:46 to seal the win.
The physicality of the game was no surprise to either coach.
“When these two teams get on the court it is going to be good basketball,” Loyd said. “I thought it was a tale of two halves. They were making shots and we were making shots. When it came down to the real crunch time Elijah Hales made some huge plays.”
“We fought, and this game is always like this, Brummett said. “We needed some other guys to take a larger role but there were a number of things that made that difficult.
Little Giant freshmen Josh Whack and Gavin Schippert received praise from their coach.
“Josh and Gavin did some good things even though they had never played in this game before,” Brummett said. “I thought they both did a good job.
Whack was forced to play more minutes when junior starting guard Sam Comer left the game early in the first half and did not return. Whack scored 13 points before fouling out.
With the loss Wabash falls to 12-4 (5-2 NCAC) and now fall back into second place as Wooster and Ohio Wesleyan are both 6-1 in the Conference. DePauw improves to 13-3 and their 5-2 mark in the conference ties them with the Little Giants.
The Little Giants have a big match-up at 7 p.m. Wednesday at home against Wittenberg. DePauw will travel to league leading Ohio Wesleyan on Wednesday.