Wittenberg’s comeback from 19 down against Wooster was at a make-or-break point when Scott Masin’s free throw bounced off the front rim and into his hands.
Masin took a step toward the basket and banked a shot in off the board. Everyone in red and white was expecting Masin to shoot another free throw for a chance to cut Wooster’s lead to one. Even the PA announcer was halfway through his announcement that Masin had scored before he realized he was wrong.
The whistle wasn’t for a blocking foul. The official signaled offensive foul and Wooster’s lead stayed at four with 3:09 left in the game.
“Huge call when Scott Masin got his miss at the free throw and they called the charge,” Wittenberg coach Bill Brown said. “Huge call.”
The Tigers couldn’t get closer than four again and lost 69-62 to Wooster in a battle of top-10 Division III teams and North Coast Athletic Conference contenders.
The No. 9 Tigers (12-3, 6-2) trailed 35-19 at halftime and fell behind 40-21 early in the second half. The comeback was encouraging, but Brown wasn’t smiling afterward.
“It’s a loss, and you’ve got to be careful about some things after losing because you never want to hint that you take losing easily,” Brown said. “But you have to pay due where it’s due. And our guys, particularly the guys off the bench, showed a lot of character.”
Brown had turned to his bench in the first half and he did it again after the No. 2 Fighting Scots (14-1, 8-0) opened the second half with a 6-2 run.
“If nothing changes, then nothing changes, and nothing was changing,” Brown said. “We just needed to go a better route.”
Justin McDowell hit a 3-pointer and 6-foot-8 post Brock Kiesler scored twice in the lane to spark a 17-4 run that cut Wooster’s lead to 44-38 with 10:35 left.
“The second string really showed some enthusiasm and just got after it,” said Masin, who scored a team-high 17 points.
Wooster, which shot 33.3 percent in the second half after shooting 46.4 in the first half, held off the Tigers with four of its six 3-pointers and 11-of-13 free-throw shooting over the final 10 minutes.
“They jumped into that zone and we got a little tentative,” Wooster coach Steve Moore said. “It was not a good thing that we let them cut into that lead. But the very positive thing is that we didn’t panic and we kept our poise.”
The Tigers have shown an up-and-down identity in conference play. They trailed Ohio Wesleyan at home by 22 in the second half before winning 62-60 in overtime. They lost an 18-point lead against Hiram before winning 80-79. On Wednesday, they scored 15 points in the second half in a 72-46 loss at DePauw. And on Saturday, the scored 19 in the first half against Wooster and shot 35 percent.
“Just miserable,” Brown said. “We’ve had back-to-back miserable halves. It’s frustrating when you can’t score.”
The Tigers’ next two games are at middle-of-the-pack Kenyon and last-place Allegheny.
“We’ll feel down tonight, but tomorrow’s a new day,” Masin said. “We’re not going to feel bad for ourselves at all.”