The Wittenberg men’s basketball team’s promising 4-0 start seems a distant memory after two disappointing losses, but all is not lost for the Tigers.
They can start building momentum again with a 3 p.m. home game today against Allegheny (4-3, 0-1 NCAC). There are no must-wins this early in the season, but starting 0-2 in the North Coast Athletic Conference with both losses at Pam Evans Smith Arena would be a tough obstacle to overcome.
“We like our team,” coach Bill Brown said. “We like the intangibles. We’ve liked their practice habits since day one. We’ve played a really tough schedule. I’m not going to say we could be 6-0 or 5-1, but we could be worse than 4-2, given all our inexperience.”
The Tigers lost 60-41 to Wooster last Saturday in their NCAC opener and then fell 85-80 at Otterbein on Tuesday. So while they’re 0-1 in the NCAC, they’re 2-1 against the Ohio Athletic Conference. Victories over Capital and Marietta preceded the loss to Otterbein.
The NCAC has dominated the OAC in the early going. Wooster and Ohio Wesleyan are 3-0 against the OAC. Hiram is 1-0. Allegheny is 1-1. Denison is 0-1.
“The NCAC has been pretty convincing head to head with the OAC,” Brown said.
Wittenberg has swept Allegheny the last two seasons, and the Gators were just 5-20 a year ago, but they’re a dangerous team.
“Allegheny is probably brimming with more confidence than they’ve had in several years,” Brown said. “They’ve had wins over Wilmington and Case Western. They had a lead over Baldwin Wallace. The list goes on and on. They have a very veteran team, particularly when you compare them to us.”
The Tigers got their offense back on track Tuesday after scoring a season-low 41 points against Wooster, but they gave up a season-high 85 points.
“It was our worst defensive night, and it’s not even close,” Brown said. “Wooster made more difficult shots than Otterbein had to make. We just had a very difficult time guarding the basketball. It led to too many layups.”
Wittenberg has also struggled behind the 3-point line, shooting 22 percent from long range in the last two games. Zack Leahy, one of the team’s top scorers, is 0-of-12 from 3-point range in the last three games. He had 20 points against Otterbein despite missing six 3-pointers.
“Our design and personel is not Alex Brandt and Clayton Black (two seniors who graduated) anymore, so it’s going to cause more driving action and getting to the free-throw line,” Brown said. “You would hope it would translate into some 3s. We just didn’t make them. We’re after good shots. What we don’t want is a 17-foot two-pointer. Zack Leahy’s really struggling shooting the 3 right now, but we can’t tell him not to shoot. He did pass one up late in the game in transition and found Steven Newell.”