GRANVILLE, Ohio-- David Meurer scored 28 points and Jett Speelman added 20 as No. 14 Denison held on for an 85-79 win over DePauw in the quarterfinals of the 2017 North Coast Athletic Conference men's basketball tournament.
With the win, Denison advances to the semifinal round where they will play Wooster at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24 in Delaware, Ohio.
Every point was vital as Denison knocked down 12 3-pointers and went 19-of-22 from the charity stripe. The Big Red took a 9-0 lead to start the game but the Tigers charged back, countering with an 11-3 run to get within one with 13:42 to play in the first.
Denison held a 46-37 lead at the intermission, but this time it was DePauw who opened the half on a 9-0 run, cutting the Big Red's lead back to one. With 5:15 remaining, DePauw's Nate Jahn connected on his lone 3-pointer of the night, making it a 67-65 lead for DU.
The Big Red answered as Matthew Bauer connected from long range. After a Denison timeout, the play of the game occurred as Garrett Collier stole the inbounds pass from Jahn and fed Meurer with an outlet pass for the transition layup. The five-point swing gave DU a 72-65 lead with 4:40 to play.
Jack VandeMerkt had a big second half for DePauw and his consecutive buckets down low trimmed the lead to four. After a foul was called on Bauer, DePauw's Andrew Kus delivered two, making it a two-point game with 2:32 remaining.
Bob Ghiloni looked to the bench and called on Andrew Castagnetti who promptly drilled his only 3-pointer of the night. Another VandeMerkt basket kept it a one possession game, but Meurer knifed through the defense for the dagger which put his team back on top by five with just over a minute to play.
In the final 30 seconds, Denison went 5-of-6 from the free throw line to lock up the gritty victory.
Speelman was 7-of-11 from the field for 20 points. He also had even rebounds in 35 minutes. He is just two points away from becoming Denison's 22nd member of the 1,000 career point club.
Meurer was three points shy of matching his season high with his 28-point effort. He was 10-for-21 from the field and 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. He also added five rebounds and two steals.
DePauw got 15 points from Luke Lattner in the first half, but Denison held the NCAC's leading scorer to only four points in the second half. VandeMerkt matched Lattner with 19 points. He also pulled down nine boards and blocked five shots.
At 22-4, Denison boasts the best record in the North Coast Athletic Conference. They are making their second-straight appearance in the NCAC Tournament Semifinals and their third appearance in the last six seasons.
The winner of the Denison-Wooster semifinal game will take on the winner of the Ohio Wesleyan-Wittenberg semifinal in the NCAC Tournament Championship on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 4 p.m.