Wittenberg, Wooster square off in matchup of top-10 teams

The Tigers (12-2) and Scots (13-1) meet for the first time in the 2013-14 season at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Pam Evans Smith Arena.

“They’re just ultra-athletic, ultra-talented,” Wittenberg coach Bill Brown said. “They’re just a handful because of their speed, quickness and ball skills.”

It’s the first time the rivals have played while both were ranked in the top 10 since Dec. 9, 2006, when the No. 1 Scots beat the No. 6 Tigers 68-65 in Springfield. Wittenberg is No. 9 in the most recent D3Hoops.com poll, and Wooster is No. 2.

The Scots are the last North Coast Athletic Conference team without a league loss. At 7-0, they lead Wittenberg and DePauw (both 6-1) by a game.

Wittenberg flirted with its first NCAC loss in the two games before the DePauw game, overcoming a 22-point, second-half deficit to beat Ohio Wesleyan 62-60 in overtime on Jan. 8 and then losing an 18-point lead before beating Hiram 80-79 on Wednesday.

The Tigers scored a season-worst 46 points in the loss to DePauw and shot a season-worst 31.3 percent from 3-point range (5-of-16). They were also out-rebounded 37-21.

“(DePauw’s) desire level was off the charts,” Brown said. “I was so impressed. We definitely weren’t ourselves. We had a two-month winning streak. We just can’t be manic depressive and feel like we’re never going to win another game.”

Wittenberg continues to lead the NCAC in field-goal percentage (48.8) despite shooting 35 percent in two of the last three games.

“It’s logical and easy to say that since the holiday tournament we just haven’t been ourselves compared to what we were before,” Brown said. “There’s no specific reason to point to. It’s just a long season. Usually when you don’t have dominant individual players, you’re going to have a spurt like that. That’s when you find out how tough-minded you are.”

Wooster has won five games in a row. It’s only loss this season was a 62-60 loss at Arizona Christian on Dec. 17. It has scored 100, 92 and 94 points in its last three NCAC games against Denison, Kenyon and Hiram. Xavier Brown (14.7 points per game) and Doug Thorpe (13.6) lead the Scots.

Injury note: Wittenberg senior Zack Leahy sprained his ankle Wednesday and didn’t practice Thursday. Brown said he’s hopeful he’ll be able to play Saturday.

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