Wittenberg Captures 7th NCAC Tournament Title

Wittenberg captured the program's seventh NCAC Tournament title on Saturday following an 82-70 victory over Ohio Wesleyan
Wittenberg captured the program's seventh NCAC Tournament title on Saturday following an 82-70 victory over Ohio Wesleyan

 For the first time since 2006, and the seventh time overall, Wittenberg (26-2) captured the NCAC Men’s Basketball Tournament title following an 82-70 win over Ohio Wesleyan (19-9) on Saturday afternoon at Pam Evans Smith Arena in Springfield, Ohio. As tournament champions, the Tigers have also earned the NCAC’s automatic bid into the NCAA Div. III Men’s Basketball Tournament for the 35th time in history. PHOTOS

Ohio Wesleyan led by as many as 11 in the first half, before Wittenberg was able to erase the deficit and grab a 14-point lead of their own in the second half. The Tigers recorded 26 assists on 38 of their field goal attempts. Wittenberg outrebounded the Bishops 43-33 and held a 62-30 edge on points in the paint. The Tigers held OWU to just 38.6 percent from the field, while shooting nearly 54 percent from the floor in the championship win.

After notching his fourth double-double of the season in the championship game with 28 points and 10 rebounds, Wittenberg sophomore Connor Seipel (Columbus, OH/Groveport, Madison) collected the Al Van Wie award as the tournament MVP. In the three tournament games combined, Seipel scored 53 points after shooting 78 percent (25-of-32) from the field and pulled down 20 rebounds.

Joining Seipel on the 2018 NCAC Men’s Basketball All-Tournament Team was senior teammate Chad Roy (Toledo, OH/Holland Springfield)), Ohio Wesleyan senior guard Nate Axelrod (Dublin, OH/Coffman), Ohio Wesleyan senior guard Seth Clark (Lewis Center, OH/Olentangy), Wooster senior forward Alex Baptiste (Allonnes, France/Wasatch Academy (UT)) and Denison senior guard Garrett Collier (McLean, VA/Langley).

To listen to Wittenberg sophomore Connor Seipel’s postgame comments, click here

To listen to Wittenberg head coach Matt Croci’s postgame comments, click here.

2018 NCAC Men's Basketball Tournament

Quarterfinals:   Semifinals:   Championship:

Tuesday, Feb. 20

  Friday, Feb. 23
(at Wittenberg)
  Saturday, February 24
(at Wittenberg)
#1 Wittenberg 70, #8 Oberlin 54 {Box}   Wittenberg 97, Denison 73 {Box}   Wittenberg 82,  Ohio Wesleyan 70 {Box}
#2 Wooster 70, #7 DePauw 63 {Box}   Ohio Wesleyan 88, Wooster 87 - OT {Box}   Championship Photos               
#3 Ohio Wesleyan 89, #6 Wabash 86 - OT {Box}   Semifinal Photos             
#5 Denison 73, #4 Hiram 60 {Box}        

Bracket -- Stats -- Tickets  -- Directions  --  NCAC Tournament Records


Semifinal Recaps

The finals are set for the 2018 Men's Basketball Tournament with the Wittenberg Tigers and Ohio Wesleyan Battling Bishops set to meet for the title on Saturday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. at Wittenberg University's Pam Smith Arena in Springfield, Ohio. The Tigers will be playing in the championship game for the 16th time in program history, while the Bishops will be playing in the title game for the 10th time in program history. Despite 26 combined championship appearances between the two programs, 2018 marks just the second time Wittenberg and Ohio Wesleyan have met in the final, with the only other meeting back in 1990. PHOTOS

A 14-0 run by top-seeded Wittenberg (25-2) to open the second half helped propel the Tigers to a 97-73 semifinal victory over fifth-seeded Denison (15-12) on Friday night in Springfield, OH.

In the first half, both team came out red hot with the Big Red firing 55 percent from the field including eight 3-pointers, but the Tigers connected at 63 percent and led by one at the end of the opening frame. Wittenberg got a huge lift off the bench in the first half from freshman James Johnson (Cincinnati, OH/Roger Bacon), who scored 19 of his career-high 23 points in the first.

To open the second half, Denison missed its first seven shots shot from the field allowing Wittenberg to go on a 14-0 run in the first three minutes of the half. Wittenberg continued to stay hot on the offensive end of the floor, shooting 22-of-30 (73 percent) in the second half and 68 percent for the game. Denison struggled to find its touch in the second half as the Big Red shot just 36 percent over the final 20 minutes and ended the contest 26-for-57 (45.6 percent) from the field.

Wittenberg was led by Johnson and Mitch Balser (Centerville, OH/Centerville) with 23 points. Connor Seipel (Columbus, OH/Groveport, Madison) and Chad Roy (Toledo, OH/Holland Springfield) finished with 16 while Jordan Pumroy (Fairborn, OH/Fairborn) added nine points and nine rebounds.

Four players scored in double figures for Denison as Garrett Collier (McLean, VA/Langley) led the way with 17 points in the loss.

Following the win, Wittenberg head coach Matt Croci talked about his team's performance.

In the second semifinal game on Friday night at Wittenberg, third-seeded Ohio Wesleyan (19-8) booked its ticket to the NCAC Tournament title game for the second-straight season with an 88-87 overtime thriller against seconded-seeded Wooster (21-6) behind an NCAC Tournament record 44 points from senior Seth Clark (Lewis Center, OH/Olentangy).

Wooster, which led by four at half and by as many as 14 with 14:36 remaining, could not stop Clark who scored 27 of his 44 points in the second half including a stretch of 16-straight for the Bishops. The Fighting Scots had a chance to put the Bishops away, leading by two with just seven seconds to play but could only connect on 1-of-2 free throws, giving OWU a final chance to send the contest into overtime. Following a timeout, Ohio Wesleyan senior Nate Axelrod (Dublin, OH/Coffman) drove to the bucket and was fouled, converting an old-fashion three-point play to tie the game and send it to overtime following a failed buzzer attempt from Wooster's Danyon Hempy (Waldo, OH/River Valley). In OT, trailing by one, Axelrod went coast-to-coast, driving and scoring to give the Bishops an 88-87 lead with 5.1 remaining. Challenged by the Bishop defense, Spencer Williams (Warrensville Hts., OH/Orange) brought the ball up for Wooster and got it to Hempy at the 3-point line, but his attempt for the win was off the rim.

Clark finished the night with a career-high 44 points on 14-for-26 shooting, including an incredible 11-for-18 from beyond the arc. The 14 field-goals-made tied an NCAC Tournament record and the 11 3-point field-goals-made set a new tournament mark. Axelrod finished with 16 points and four assists.

Hempy led Wooster on the night with 23 points – 19 of which came in the first half. Ari Stern (Phoenix, AZ/Sunnyslope chipped in with a career-high 18 points thanks to a 5-8 night from the floor, including a 3-for-4 showing from beyond the arc in the loss.

Following the win, Ohio Wesleyan head coach Mike DeWitt talked about his team's performance.

Quarterfinal Recaps

There was just one upset on Tuesday night in the quarterfinal round of the 2018 NCAC Men's Basketball Tournament, setting up several marquee semifinal matchups this Friday at Wittenberg University's Pam Evans Smith Arena. In the early game at 5:30 p.m., top-seeded Wittenberg will square off against fifth-seeded Denison, while the 7:30 p.m. nightcap will feature second-seeded Wooster and third-seeded Ohio Wesleyan. Friday's winners will meet in the championship game at 4:00 p.m. in Springfield, Ohio.

Top-seeded Wittenberg (24-2) led coast-to-coast in a 70-54 victory over Oberlin (12-14) in the quarterfinal round of the 2018 NCAC Men's Basketball Tournament. While the two squads were evenly matched in numerous statistical categories throughout the night, the Tigers did hold an advantage over the Yeomen in three key categories, including Rebounds, 39-29, points in the paint, 38-28, and bench points, 21-14. Three different Tigers scored in double figures, led by senior Chad Roy (Toledo, OH/Holland Springfield) scoring 14 points and pulling down seven rebounds, while freshman James Johnson (Cincinnati, OH/Roger Bacon) came off the bench to score 11 points and pull down a team-high eight boards for the Tigers. For Oberlin, junior Eli Silverman-Lloyd (Culver City, CA/Winward) led the way with 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field, while sophomore Christian Fioretti (Menlo Park, CA/Menlo-Atherton)also had a solid game for the Yeomen with 11 points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals and one blocked shot.

After trailing seventh-seed DePauw (11-15) by two points at the half, second-seeded Wooster (21-5) outscored the Tigers by a 40-31 margin in the second half to earn a 70-63 victory and advance to the semifinals of the NCAC Tournament for the 22nd year in a row. DePauw controlled the pace of play in the first half and led by as many as seven points, 32-25, with just under two minutes left in the half, but the Scots closed out the period on a 5-0 run, which included a three at the buzzer from freshmanKeonn Scott (Ft. Lauderdale, FL/Cardinal Gibbons) to cut the lead to two at intermission. The two squads found themselves in a back-and-fourth battle over the first 14 minutes of the second half, resulting in a one-point lead for DePauw at 53-52 with 6:10 left to play on a layup from senior Jack Vandemerkt (Riverside, IL/Riverside Brookfield). However, the Scots went back ahead by one on the next possession on a bucket from senior Alex Baptiste (Allones, France/Wasatch Acad., UT) and proceeded to outscore the Tigers by a 16-10 margin down the stretch to secure the seven-point victory. Senior Spencer Williams (Warrensville Hts., OH/Orange) was one of three Wooster players to score in double figures with a team-high 16 points, while Baptiste added eight points and a team-high eight rebounds. DePauw was led in scoring by freshman Josh Hall (Bloomington, IN/South) with 16 points, while Vandemerkt notched a double-double in his final collegiate game with 13 points and 10 rebounds. 

In what turned out to be the only upset of the night, fifth-seeded Denison (15-11) pulled away from fourth-seeded Hiram (15-11) late in the second to post a 73-60 win and advance to the semifinals for the third year in a row. The Big Red held a 31-23 at intermission, but the Terriers opened the second half strong and pulled within two at 31-29 at the 17:00-minute mark on a tip-in from senior Isaiah Matthews (Orlando, FL/Eastridge). DU then extended its lead out to 39-31 over the next three minutes of play, culminating with a dunk from sophomore Fred Brou (Lawrence, KS/Lawrence) with 14:57 showing on the clock.  With the score tied at 46-46 with 9:23 left, the game appeared to be headed down to the wire, but DU senior Garrett Collier (McLean, VA/Langley) stepped up to the challenge and scored 16 of his game-high 23 points down the stretch to lift the Big Red to the 13-point upset win at Hiram. Collier also pulled down nine rebounds in the win to share the team lead with classmate Johnny Vernasco (Libertyville, IL/Libertyville). Hiram senior Terrence Warren (Farmington Hills, MI/Walled Lake Central) led the Terriers in scoring with 16 points, while classmate Kelvin Jones (Sheffield Lake, OH/Brookside) tallied a double-double in his final game with the Terriers with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

It took 40 minutes of regulation time and five minutes of overtime play, before third-seeded Ohio Wesleyan (18-8) finally came away with an 89-86 win over sixth-seeded Wabash (12-14) in Delaware. With OWU trailing Wabash, 72-70, with 12 seconds left in regulation, senior Nate Axelrod (Dublin, OH/Coffman) drove to the basket and was fouled, setting up arguably the two most important free throws of his career. After Axelrod sank both free throw attempts to send the game to overtime, the Bishops stayed hot at the line by nailing 11-of-13 attempts from the charity stripe in the extra session to advance to the semifinal round of the tournament with the three-point win. While free throw shooting proved to be the difference in OT, the Bishops got themselves back into the game throughout the second half with the three-pointer, led by senior Will Orr (Johnstown, OH/Johnstown-Monroe) connecting of 4-of-8 attempts from long distance in the second half. After shooting just 24 percent (5-of-21) from three-point range in the first half, the Bishops sank 9-of-23 attempts from beyond the arc in the second half to help erase the Wabash lead. Axelrod led the Bishops with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while classmate Seth Clark (Lewis Center, OH/Olentangy) also notched a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Despite the loss, Wabash dominated on the glass throughout the night, holding a 51-39 edge in the rebounding column, led by a career night from sophomore Harrison Hallstrom (Naperville, IL/Central) with 21 points and 18 rebounds.

Touranment Preview

NCAC Men's Basketball Weekly Release - (2/19/18)

Wittenberg has earned the top seed in the 2018 NCAC Men's Basketball Tournament after the Tigers posted a thrilling 78-77 overtime victory over arch-rival Wooster on Saturday night in the season finale. The NCAC Tournament begins with quarterfinal games at campus sites on Tuesday (2/20) evening. The seeding follows the regular season standings with the top four seeds hosting quarterfinal contests. 

While Wooster leads all NCAC men's squads with 17 titles, Wittenberg is second with 12 total titles. Ohio Wesleyan has won seven conference championships, while Allegheny is the only other team to have won a conference championship with four all-time. The Battling Bishops and Gators shared the title in both 1988 and 1986, while Allegheny also shared the crown with Wooster in 1989 and Wittenberg in 1993.

The Wittenberg Tigers (16-2) will now host the eight seed, Oberlin (6-12), on Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m., while second-seeded Wooster (15-3) will host seventh-seeded DePauw (7-11) at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday. In the other quarterfinal matchups on Tuesday night, third-seeded Ohio Wesleyan (12-6) hosts sixth-seeded Wabash (8-10) at 7:30 p.m., while fourth-seeded Hiram (11-7) entertains fifth-seeded Denison (10-8), also at 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday's winners will advance to the semifinals and championship on Friday and Saturday at the site of the highest remaining seed to emerge from the quarterfinal round. Semifinal games will be held on Friday with the host institution selecting its preferred time slot. The championship game is set for 4:00 p.m. on Saturday.

In low capacity gyms with less than 2,000 seats (DEN, HIR & OWU), the semifinal games will be played at 5:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., with the host institution choosing their preferred time slot. Please note, in this scenario the gym will be cleared in between games and separate tickets will be required for both contests. In high capacity gyms with more than 2,000 seats (WIT & WOO), the semifinal games will be played at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. with the host institution choosing their preferred time slot. One ticket will be valid for both contests in high capacity gyms.

The championship game is set for Saturday (2/24) at 4:00 p.m. at the site of the semifinal contests. This year's tournament champion will receive an automatic bid to the 2018 NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Tournament, which beings with first-round play on March 2nd.

In the event that one institution hosts both the men's and women's "final four", the men's semifinals will be played on Thursday (2/22) and the women's semifinals will be played on Friday (2/23). The championship games would then be played on Saturday with the men playing at 3:00 p.m. and the women at 7:00 p.m. In this scenario, the gym will be cleared in between games and separate tickets will be required for each contest.

TOURNEY TALKWooster has won seven of the last 11 NCAC Tournaments, with only Denison, Ohio Wesleyan and DePauw interrupting that string. The Scots won their 16th tournament title overall last winter with a 76-72 win over Ohio Wesleyan in Delaware, while Denison won its first tourney title in program history in 2016 with a 92-81 overtime victory over Wooster. DePauw earned its first tournament title in 2015, while OWU captured titles in 2008 and 2013. Wooster owns 16 postseason titles, with just over half of them coming as the No. 1 seed (1995, '99, '00, '03, '07, '09, '10, '11, '14). Wittenberg is second all-time with six tourney titles, while Ohio Wesleyan (5), Allegheny (3), Denison (1), DePauw (1) and Kenyon (1) round out the list of past tournament champions. Wooster has appeared in the finals 24 times, including a string of 11-straight from 1997-2007, while Wittenberg has made 15 championship game appearances all-time, followed by Ohio Wesleyan (9), Allegheny (8), Kenyon (3), Wabash (3), Denison (2) and DePauw (1) ... Fourth-seeded Hiram will be hosting a quarterfinal game for the second time in the last three years and just the third time since 2009 ... The last time Denison was the fifth seed in the conference tournament they came just two points shy of winning the title, falling to second-seeded Wooster, 53-51, in 2012 ... As the sixth seed, Wabash has now qualified for the tournament every year since joining the NCAC in the 1999-00 academic year. The Little Giants made back-to-back championship game appearances in 2008 and '09, falling to OWU in '08, 89-72, and dropping an 84-72 decision against Wooster the next year ... DePauw, which won the tourney title in 2015 with a 69-56 win over OWU, returns to the field for the second year in a row and the sixth time in the last seven years ... Eighth-seeded Oberlin returns to the tournament this winter looking for its first win in the eight-team tournament since knocking off Allegheny by an 88-73 margin in the opening round in 1992 ... Wooster leads all men's teams with an .802 winning percentage (69-17) in tournament games. Wittenberg follows at .672 (45-22), while Ohio Wesleyan is next at .540 (34-29). DePauw at .500 (4-4) and Allegheny at .500 (24-24) are the only other men's teams at or above the .500 mark in tournament play.