LATEST NEWS:

Food truck getting buzz for its gourmet street eats crowned champion of Springfield competition

Winning streak brings back memories for Wittenberg’s Croci

Tigers four wins away from matching school record set in 1994


Wittenberg Tigers coach Matt Croci has heard from a number of his former college teammates — Aaron Perry, Anthony Robinson and Luke Ragan, for example — as his team approaches the school record for consecutive victories.

The streak reached 22 games Wednesday with an 84-72 victory against Wabash at Pam Evans Smith Arena. It’s now the second-longest winning streak in school history. The Tigers passed the 1988-89 team, coached by Larry Hunter, that started 21-0.

The third-ranked Tigers need four more wins to tie the school and North Coast Athletic Conference record Croci and his Witt teammates set in 1993-94. His teammates won’t celebrate if Croci doesn’t get it.

“They said they would feel less good about it if I wasn’t the coach,” Croci said. “They don’t want somebody else to break the record.”

» RELATED: Freshman playing key roles for Wittenberg

The Tigers (22-0, 15-0) still have three big challenges in the regular season just to get a chance to play for the record in the NCAC tournament. They face the three teams directly behind them in the standings in the final three games.

Wittenberg travels to fourth-place Hiram (13-9, 9-6) at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Tigers play at third-place Ohio Wesleyan (15-7, 10-5) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. They close the regular season at home against second-place and 23rd-ranked Wooster (18-4, 12-3) at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 17.

Twenty four years ago, Wittenberg won 26 straight games before losing 84-78 to Kenyon in the NCAC championship game. Croci remembers several close calls during that winning streak. He played a big part in keeping Wittenberg unbeaten for so long.

In December that season, Croci hit a 3-pointer with 32 seconds left to send the game to overtime at Hope College, and the Tigers won 87-77. In January against Wooster, hit a 3-point bank shot from the top of the key as time expired to give Wittenberg a 67-64 victory.

» EARLIER COVERAGE: Ten things to know about winning streak

Croci remembers how coach Bill Brown, then in his first season, approached that season. Wittenberg hired Brown in May 1993 when Dan Hipsher left for Stetson.

“He knew he had a really good team,” Croci said said. “He knew he had a lot of talented guys. He was trying to put us in the right spots and let us go. It’s very similar to what I’m doing with these guys.”

Even though he’s the coach now and said he has less control over the game once the ball gets tipped than he did when he was playing, Croci said this season and this team reminds him of his senior year.

“When I see the personality of our team,” Croci said, “and how well they get along and play together and the energy and how they just love to compete, those things are very similar to my team.”

Croci averaged 18.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists as a senior that season. He was named a third-team All-American. He ended his career with 1,289 points and ranks 13th in school history in scoring.

» GAME STORIES: Tigers beat Oberlin to reach 21-0Witt 20-0 after beating KenyonWittenberg beats Denison for 19th winWittenberg shows grit in 18th victory

Ragan led the team in rebounds in 1993-94. Robinson was the assists leader. Croci, Ragan and Perry were team captains. Croci, Robinson and Aaron Smith made the All-NCAC first team.

After losing to Kenyon, Wittenberg won three NCAA tournament games before losing 93-83 in overtime in the Final Four to Lebanon Valley, which went on to win the national championship. The team’s star was Mike Rhoades, who’s now the head coach at VCU.

Wittenberg will have to wait to think about the NCAA tournament this year, though it’s in good shape to make the field with an at-large berth if it doesn’t win the NCAC tournament. The Tigers rank No. 1 in the Great Lakes Region, and every other team in the region has at least four losses.

Wittenberg and No. 1 Whitman (22-0) remain the only undefeated teams in Division III. The Tigers hope to keep the streak going as long as they can. Alumni have the same hopes.

“The winning is great,” Croci said, “but our alumni are just proud of how we play.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

McCoy: Riggleman not emphasizing ‘spoiler role’ as Reds begin stretch of 13 games against NL Central contenders
McCoy: Riggleman not emphasizing ‘spoiler role’ as Reds begin stretch of 13 games against NL Central contenders

The Cincinnati Reds travel bags were open in front of the players’ lockers, stuffed with their road gray uniforms. As soon as they finished business Sunday afternoon with the San Francisco Giants, the Reds would embark on a flight to General Billy Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee. The standings say the Reds are 17 1/2 games out of...
HS Roundup 8/18: Oakwood tennis takes title at Pick. Central tourney

Oakwood picked up victories in the first and third doubles finals to win the Pickerington Central Doubles Invitational in girls tennis action on Saturday. The doubles duo of Lily McCloskey/Sarah Hall won in first doubles and Sidney Purks/Sophie Schnell won in third. Lakota East, Seven Hills, Perrysburg, Ursuline Academy, Tol. St. Ursula, Walsh Jesuit...
HS Scores 8/18: Alter, Carroll open boys soccer season with wins

Boys Soccer Saturday’s Results Alter 1, Monroe 0 Botkins 2, Miami East 1 Carroll 2, Troy 0 Centerville 4, Lakota West 1 Dixie 1, Legacy Christian 1 Fairbanks 6, West Jefferson 0 Fairmont 1, Fairfield 0 Mason 2, Springboro 0 Northmont 4, Sidney 0 Talawanda 5, Badin 0 Tecumseh 3, Miamisburg 3 Friday’s Results Anderson 5, Middletown 0 Butler...
Cincinnati Reds: Hamilton returns to leadoff spot after 82-game hiatus
Cincinnati Reds: Hamilton returns to leadoff spot after 82-game hiatus

Friday felt like Christmas in August for Billy Hamilton. The Cincinnati center fielder received a surprise gift from interim manager Jim Riggleman when he saw his name in the leadoff slot for the first time since April 26 against Atlanta, snapping a streak of 82 consecutive starts in the ninth slot – below the pitcher. Hamilton celebrated by...
McCoy: Christmas for Billy Hamilton is batting leadoff
McCoy: Christmas for Billy Hamilton is batting leadoff

When Billy Hamilton walked into the clubhouse Friday night and saw the lineup board, he wanted to jump and click his heels — something he can easily do. Instead of finding his name at the bottom of the batting order, ninth, he was back at the top, batting leadoff for the first time since late April “It was like Christmas for me when I came...
More Stories