Inspired effort comes up short against Wittenberg
Wittenberg's Scott Masin scored 21 points to go along with nine rebounds, and his basket with 29 seconds remaining was enough to put the kibosh on a spirited upset bid by the Denison Big Red. When the final horn sounded, the Tigers would escape Livingston Gym with a 79-78 victory.
Denison held a six-point lead at the half despite playing all but seven minutes of the opening stanza without leading scorer Dimonde Hale, who was saddled with foul trouble.
The Tigers would open the second half on a 9-2 run, eventually taking their first lead since early in the contest on a fast break, one-handed slam by Masin with 16:10 to play.
DU would take the lead back on a 3-point play by Hale with 9:08 to go, but an 8-0 run by Wittenberg would put them back in the driver's seat with 7:32 to play. Just when it looked as if the Tigers were about to take command of the game, Denison would come up with a big shot, usually from beyond the arc.
Denison connected on 11 3-pointers in the game and no one was hotter than first-year Darius White. The rookie finished the day 5-for-5 from the field and 4-of-4 from 3-point range and his 3-pointer with 1:43 left got the Big Red within two points at 70-68.
The Tigers would answer with a Zack Leahy 3-pointer, but White would come right back, this time knocking down a long jumper with his toe on the line. Now trailing by three with a minute to play, the Tigers ran the shot clock all the way down and fed the ball to Masin in the post where he converted with an up-and-under move. Trailing by five it looked as if all hope were lost, but a Jon Akpapunam 3-pointer cut the Wittenberg lead back to just two points with seven seconds to play.
Denison quickly fouled, and Newell would split the pair of free throws, giving the Big Red a chance to potentially tie the game. Trailing 77-74, Denison inbounded the ball and threw it across half court to Alex Longi who was fouled immediately before having a chance to attempt a shot.
Longi would make the first, and miss the second intentionally with hopes of securing an offensive rebound, but Masin would come up with the rebound, finishing off a hard-fought victory for Wittenberg.
The game saw 12 lead changes and nine tie game situations and the two teams combined to shoot 53 percent from the field. Wittenberg was 27-for-49 (.551) and connected on 12 of their 22 attempts from long range. Leahy was 5-of-6 from deep for 18 points and Alex Fultz added 13 points while going 3-of-4 from 3-point territory.
Denison shot 52 percent from the field and was 11-for-25 from downtown. In all, six Big Red players scored in double figures, led by White's 14 points. Hale and Briggs King added 12 points while Akpapunam and Brad Woolard finished with 11. Longi rounded things out with 10 points and six assists in his 36 minutes of action.
The two teams were dead even on the glass, with each squad pulling down 28 rebounds. Twelve of Denison's 28 boards would come on the offensive end, leading to 10 second chance points.
Wittenberg improves to 11-4 overall and 4-2 in the NCAC while Denison drops to 4-11 and 2-4 in conference play. The Big Red will return to action on Wednesday when they make a mid-week road trip to DePauw for an 8 p.m. tip-off against the Tigers.