As we enter the final week of the NCAC Men’s Basketball season, the eight teams that will be competing in the 2016 NCAC Tournament have been decided; however, there is still plenty to play for as the final seeds for the tournament will be decided at the conclusion of play on Saturday. Among the marquee games on the schedule this week include Denison (8-8, 13-10) hosting Hiram (11-5, 17-6) on Wednesday night and Wabash (7-9, 13-10) traveling to Kenyon (6-10, 9-14) on Saturday afternoon.
ALLEGHENY suffered a pair of conference losses last week against Oberlin, 74-56, and No. 10 Ohio Wesleyan, 105-84. In the loss against OWU, junior Evan Zabriski (Jupiter, FL/Jupiter) scored a career-high 28 points, while freshman Billy Urso (Pittsburgh, PA/Fox Chapel) connected on a career-high five three-pointers to finish with 15 points.
DENISON went 1-1 last week, defeating Kenyon, 71-67, before falling at home against Wabash, 86-61. With two games left on the schedule against Hiram and Allegheny, the Big Red still have a chance at clinching a home game in the quarterfinal round of the NCAC Tournament. In the win over the Lords, three DU players scored in double figures, led by junior Jett Speelman (Granville, OH/Newark Catholic) finishing the game with 19 points, three rebounds and two assists.
DEPAUW dropped a pair of games last week against Wittenberg, 85-53, and Kenyon, 81-79. The Tigers fought back from a 12-point deficit in the second half against Kenyon, but a potential game-tying shot at the buzzer from junior guard Luke Lattner (Hinsdale, IL/Fenwick) was just off the mark.
HIRAM clinched a home game in the quarterfinal round of the NCAC Tournament with a pair of wins against Wooster, 70-69, and Oberlin, 78-68. The win against Wooster marked the Terriers’ first victory over the Scots since the 1996-97 season, while the 17 total wins are Hiram’s most since posting a 17-8 mark in the 92-93 season. Sophomore Paul Ortiz (Canton, OH/McKinley) led Hiram with 19 points against the Scots, while senior Ray Gaston (Warren, OH/John F. Kennedy) came off the bench and finished the game with 11 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. In the win over Oberlin, sophomore Kelvin Jones (Sheffield Lake, OH/Brookside) tallied a double-double with a season-high 16 rebounds and a career-best 23 points.
KENYON fell short against Denison, 71-67, but the Lords clinched a spot in the NCAC Tournament with an 81-79 victory over DePauw. Sophomore guard Alexander Powell (Greenville, SC/St. Joseph) scored a career-high 22 points against DePauw, while senior Tim Connolly (San Francisco, CA/Stuart Hall) sunk the game-winning layup with three seconds left to give KC its ninth win of the season.
OBERLIN split a pair of road games last week, earning a 64-56 win at Allegheny, before falling at Hiram, 78-68. Junior guard Jack Poyle (Avon, OH/Avon) led the charge against the Gators with 19 points and six rebounds, while senior center Randy Ollie (Evanston, IL/Evanston) notched his second double-double of the season with 20 points and 14 rebounds against the Terriers. After totaling 29 points in the two games, Ollie is now the 23rd player in program history to eclipse 1,000 career points with 1,025 points over his four-year career.
OHIO WESLEYAN, ranked 10th in the most recent D3hoops.com Top-25, dropped a narrow 76-71 decision at Wabash, before returning home and posting a 105-84 victory over Allegheny. The Bishops can clinch at least a share of their second-straight NCAC title with two wins this week. Sophomore guard Nate Axelrod (Dublin, OH/Coffman) paced OWU on the week with 53 points and nine assists, which included a season-high 30-point performance in the loss against Wabash. Senior wing Claude Gray (Avon, OH/Avon) had his best shooting performance of the season against Allegheny as he finished the game with 24 points on 7-of-9 shooting from three-point range and a perfect 3-of-3 effort at the line.
WABASH picked up a pair of important wins last week against No. 10 Ohio Wesleyan, 76-71, and Denison, 86-61. It was a record-setting day for the Little Giants at Denison as the team set a school record for three-point shooting percentage (71.4 %) after connecting on 10-of-14 attempts from long distance, while freshman guard Johnny Jager (Bloomington, IN/South) also set the program record for assists in a game with 13 helpers. In addition, senior forward Daniel Purvlicis (Noblesville, IN/Noblesville) notched his sixth and seventh double-doubles of the season last week with 23 points and 10 rebounds against OWU, and 24 points and 14 boards against the Big Red.
WITTENBERG opened the week with an 85-53 victory over DePauw, before dropping a 99-86 overtime decision at arch-rival Wooster. The Tigers can clinch a home game in the quarterfinal round of the NCAC Tournament with two wins this week. In the win over DPU, junior guard Cody Phillippi (Xenia, OH/Xenia) led the way with 19 points, while senior forward Alex Fultz (Cincinnati, OH/Glen Este) just missed out on a double-double with eight points and eight rebounds.
WOOSTER, which appears in the “Others Receiving Votes” portion of the most recent D3hoops.com Top-25, split a pair of exciting games last week, losing at third-place Hiram, 70-69, before edging fourth-place Wittenberg by a 99-86 decision in overtime. The Scots can clinch at least a share of their league-leading 17th NCAC title with two wins this week. Sophomore guard Spencer Williams (Bedford, OH/Orange) led all players in scoring in both games last week with 20 against Hiram and 22 against Wittenberg. He helped fuel the comeback against Wittenberg as he scored 15 of his game-high 22 points in the second half.