Wittenberg’s lone senior, Cam Walton, had the court to himself with his parents before the game. It was a special moment for a player who overcame an ACL tear as a sophomore to be a part of Wittenberg’s run to the national quarterfinals last season.
The rest of the night didn’t go according to script. DePauw dominated Wittenberg from start to finish, winning 70-62 at Pam Evans Smith Arena on Wednesday.
“We were just lackadaisical,” said Walton, a 6-foot-1 wing from Anthony Wayne High School in Waterville, Ohio. “It didn’t seem like we were focused. We had a tough loss at Wooster (on Saturday). We worked really hard. We just didn’t see the same thing this time.”
Wittenberg (15-9 overall) is now tied for third place in the North Coast Athletic Conference with DePauw and Kenyon at 8-7. DePauw swept the season series, so it has the tiebreaker over Wittenberg if the teams tie. Wittenberg has the tiebreaker over Kenyon because it beat the Lords in their only meeting.
On Saturday, the last day of the regular season, Wittenberg plays at Hiram at 4 p.m. DePauw hosts Wooster. Kenyon hosts Allegheny. The third- and fourth-place teams host first-round games in the NCAC tournament, so there’s a lot on the line Saturday.
Wittenberg will have to put this performance behind it fast.
“DePauw is a really good basketball team,” Wittenberg coach Bill Brown said. “They were just more aggressive than us from the get-go. We were lethargic. It was just a struggle all night.”
Zack Leahy led the Tigers with 20 points. Scott Masin had 14 points. Walton had 12 points and nine rebounds.
DePauw took control of the game with a 10-0 run in the final three minutes of the first half. Wittenberg went almost 10 minutes in the first half without a field goal, but it stayed close by getting to the foul line. But Wittenberg missed its last three shots of the half, and DePauw made four of its last five shots.
Things for worse for Wittenberg early in the second half. DePauw opened the half on a 12-4 run, extending its advantage to 44-24. Wittenberg needed just three minutes to cut the deficit to 10 points, only to see DePauw push it back to 16 with 4:38 left.
Despite a desperate rally in the final minutes, Wittenberg couldn’t get any closer than seven points. Twice Wittenberg couldn’t corral the rebound on missed free throws by DePauw in the last 90 seconds.
Women’s game: Wittenberg almost pulled off the biggest upset of the season in Division III basketball before losing 54-46 to the nation’s top-ranked team, undefeated DePauw (24-0, 15-0).
Wittenberg (11-13, 7-8) trailed 45-44 with 2:31 to play, but DePauw scored the next six points to secure the victory.
In the first game between the two teams, Wittenberg lost 74-37 on Jan. 23.