Wittenberg coach Matt Croci talks to the players during a game against Wabash on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019, at Pam Evans Smith Arena in Springfield. David Jablonski/Staff
Photo: Staff Writer
Photo: Staff Writer

Rebounding, 3-point shooting hurt Wittenberg in NCAA tournament loss

Tigers finish 24-6 after loss to Guilford in second round

No. 17 Wittenberg lost 70-61 to host Guilford in Greensboro, N.C., on Saturday at Ragan-Brown Field House. The Tigers, whose 11-game winning streak ended, finished the season 24-6.

Wittenberg coach Matt Croci pointed to Guilford’s 46-25 rebounding edge (15-3 in offensive rebounding) as the biggest reason for the loss.

“Pretty disappointed to have our season end tonight,” Croci said in the postgame press conference. “It was really a nice ride the last couple months of the year. I’m really proud of our guys for getting things turned around after hitting a rough stretch in early January. The credit goes to them for believing and committing themselves to working hard every day and wanting to get ourselves back in the NCAA tournament, wanting to advance. It’s tough to deal with them. I was looking forward to getting back to practice with them on Monday, and we won’t be able to do that. Guilford outplayed us in a few areas tonight and credit goes to them.”

» RELATED: Wittenberg goes on road after winning NCAC

The game was tied with 7:18 to play after a jump shot by Jake Bertemes. Guilford started an 8-0 run on its next possession. The Tigers didn’t score again until a layup by Rashaad Ali-Shakir with 3:21 to play.

Wittenberg cut the deficit to 61-58 on a 3-pointer by Mitch Balser at the 2:28 mark. Then Guilford scored the next seven points to clinch the victory.

Three-point shooting hurt Wittenberg. It matched its season season-high with 34 attempts and made nine of them (26.5 percent) after topping 40 percent in five of its previous six games.

James Johnson led Wittenberg with 15 points on 4-of-10 shooting. He had eight points in the first eight minutes.

Jake Bertemes scored 13 points on 6-of-13 shooting. Connor Seipel made 5 of 7 shots and scored 10 points. Ali-Shakir had nine points off the bench. Balser, Wittenberg’s only senior, scored six points in his final game.

Guilford (23-7) advanced to face No. 13 St. Thomas in the Sweet 16.

» EARLIER COVERAGE: Wittenberg confident after recent success on road

First-round game: Wittenberg beat No. 18 Emory 100-88 in the first round Friday. Bertemes led the Tigers with 22 points.

Seipel added 21 and passed the 1,000-point mark in his career. He ended his junior season with 1,028 points. He’s the 32nd player in Wittenberg history to reach the milestone.

Johnson scored 20. Ali-Shakir had 13.

The Tigers made 11 of 20 3-pointers (55 percent) and shot 59.3 percent from the field.

Wittenberg ended the first half on an 18-8 run to take a 51-41 halftime lead and pushed its lead into double digits midway through the second half.

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