Enri Small's career-high 31 points powered the Wittenberg Tigers to a 69-65 victory over Denison in the quarterfinals of the 2013 North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament on Tuesday evening in Granville.
With the win, the Tigers (13-13) advance to the semifinals of the NCAC Tournament. The semifinal and championship games will be played at DePauw University on Friday and Saturday. Denison falls to 13-13 following the loss.
DU jumped out of the gate quickly with strong play on both sides of the ball. Over the opening 10 minutes, the Big Red defense forced the Tigers into eight turnovers, and held Wittenberg to nine points on 4-of-17 from the field (22 percent). Just as impressive during that stretch was the DU offense as they hit nine of their first 15 shots while building a 23-9 lead.
The Tigers cut the deficit to eight, but an 8-0 spurt over the final three minutes of the half sent the Big Red into the locker room with their largest lead of the night, 31-15. Senior point guard Serafina Nuzzo scored 11 points on 5-of-7 from the field in the first 20 minute, while Kyli Parker had four assists and six steals.
A completely different Wittenberg team took the floor in the second half, led by Small and Kim Replogle. Replogle opened the period with a pair of jumpers. Following a bucket by Mary Margaret Habel, Small knocked down two shots to shrink the margin to 10 points. The Tigers' Katelyn Haralamos continued the momentum swing with 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to quickly make it a 33-29 contest. Wittenberg tied the game (38-38) at 12:22 thanks to a 23-7 run.
After tossing the lead back-and-forth for roughly six minutes, Wittenberg tied the game for the ninth time at 50-50 with 6:04 to play. Karen Daniel-Hamberg broke the tie almost a minute later with a pair of free throws, and extended the lead on Witt's next possession with a jumper off an assist from Replogle.
The Big Red responded by scoring seven of the next nine points to regain a 57-56 lead. Junior Gretchen Staubach and Habel each buried jumpers, while Nuzzo converted a three-point play. However, a deep triple by Small regained the lead for Wittenberg. Now trailing 65-59, Nuzzo drained a pair at the line and knocked down a jumper to make it a one-possession game with 17 seconds to play.
Following two more free throws from Small, Nuzzo connected on a jumper in the paint to close the gap to 67-65. After a turnover on the inbounds pass and a foul by the Tigers, DU had one last shot at tying the game. Unfortunately, the Big Red couldn't capitalize and were forced to foul Small, who iced the game with a pair of free throws with five seconds left.
Both teams shot 43 percent for the game, but the Tigers were the hot team in the second period going 20-for-35 (57 percent). Wittenberg got 41 points from its bench and held a 43-31 advantage on the glass.
Nuzzo finished with 23 points and five rebounds in 34 minutes, while Parker and Candise Love each logged 10 points. Parker recorded nine steals, tying DU Hall of Famer Allison McCombe for the second-highest single-game performance in school history.
Small finished 11-for-20 from the field, including a 7-for-9 outing in the second period, and went a perfect 7-for-7 from the charity stripe. She also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds, while Haralamos and Daniel-Hamberg added 12 and 10 points, respectively.
The loss snaps a 10-game winning streak by Denison in the quarterfinal round of the NCAC Tournament.