Nobody said anything to Scott Masin as he stepped to the line Tuesday at DePauw with Wittenberg’s season on the line, but seconds before in the huddle on the bench, coach Bill Brown gave Masin a boost of confidence.
“After he makes these two free throws,” said Brown, who then revealed the defensive strategy.
Hickory Hoosiers coach Norman Dale said the same thing in the movie before Ollie made the big shots in a tournament game. It must have worked for Masin because the junior post from Tipp City Bethel drained both foul shots with 11 seconds left to give Wittenberg a 63-62 lead.
DePauw’s Kevin Sullivan missed a shot at the buzzer, and the fifth-seeded Tigers (17-9) advanced to today’s 8 p.m. North Coast Athletic Conference tournament semifinal against top-seeded and 17th-ranked Wooster (22-4) at Timken Gymnasium.
Wooster swept Wittenberg in the regular season, but so did DePauw, and Wittenberg got revenge in the quarterfinals. Now the Tigers will try to do it again versus their biggest rivals.
It’s the opportunity Wittenberg hoped it would get after a 75-71 loss at Wooster on Feb. 9. That was a much closer game than Wooster’s 60-41 victory in Springfield on Dec. 1.
“When they came here, they definitely outplayed us and kind of made us look silly,” Masin said. “When we went up there, it was kind of a turning point. We were in a slump, and we played well and showed we can play with them and beat them. We can definitely go up there and do it this time.”
Wittenberg’s last win against Wooster in the NCAC tournament came in the 2006 championship game. The Tigers won 71-69 at Wooster, avenging two regular-season losses. Wooster beat the Tigers 88-77 in the 2010 championship game and 82-68 in the 2011 championship game.
The teams have met 11 times in the NCAC tournament, but always in the final until now.
Wittenberg takes some confidence into the game because it has won two road games in a row that few outside Springfield would have expected it to win. The Tigers hadn’t won at Hiram in four years, but won 68-62 last Saturday, and then beat a DePauw team that had just beaten Wooster.
“I definitely feel we have the belief,” Masin said. “If we come out with a different mindset, just like we did against DePauw, we can do the job.”
Masin has carried the Tigers’ offense in the last two games, scoring a career-high 26 points at Hiram and nearly equalling that with 25 at DePauw. He combined to make 21-of-27 free throws in those two games, so it was no surprise he found himself on the line in the final seconds.
“I got the ball inside and was trying to make it, and I got fouled,” Masin said. “You’ve got to do whatever you can at that point in the game. I had a lot of practice at the line, so I had a rhthym going.”