No. 5 Wittenberg beats Denison to maintain three-game lead in NCAC

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Wittenberg basketball highlights

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Tigers have won five straight games since their only loss

Everything was falling for the Wittenberg Tigers on Wednesday. Even coach Matt Croci's son Cameron drained four 3-pointers during a halftime game with other kids from Upper Arlington.

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The fifth-ranked Tigers made a season-best 18 of 30 3-pointers to beat Denison 100-59 at Pam Evans Smith Arena, recording their most lopsided victory of the season against a team that upset second-place Wooster two weeks ago.

"The rhythm came from us still doing what we want to do, which is attack inside out, play through our post players, attack the rim first," Croci said. "The guys trust that, and we play that way, and it got us good looks out on the perimeter. The big thing for me was in the first half almost every basket was assisted on."

Wittenberg (19-1, 12-1) finished with a season-high 24 assists on 36 made field goals. It made 15 of 26 3-pointers two games earlier in a 90-59 victory against DePauw but hit 60 percent from 3-point range for the first time this season against Denison.

Eight different players made 3-pointers. Brice Hill made 5 of 6 and led Wittenberg with 15 points. It was the best performance of the season for the freshman forward, who averages 2.9 points per game.

"Brice is capable," Croci said. "He's going to be really really good. He's just kind of going through that transition of high school to college. He's grown so much. He's really improved the last month or so, which is what we've stayed on him about. There's still a lot of time for you to improve at the end of your freshman year, and he has fought it and worked hard, so I'm really happy for him to see that ball go in."

Jordan Pumroy and Rashaad Ali-Shakir each made three 3-pointers. James Johnson and Levi Boettcher each made two. Ridge Young, Landon Martin and Jordan Welch each made one.

Wittenberg leads Wooster (15-5, 9-4) by three games in the North Coast Athletic Conference with five games to play. The Tigers have won five straight games since their only loss of the season, 98-86 at Wooster on Jan. 18.

"Wooster played really well," Croci said. "They shot the ball really well. They played better than we did. They deserved to win. We watched tape. We saw what our mistakes were. We flushed it and moved on. I think the guys realize we have a good team, but we've got to do things a certain way and they were willing to go back to work that Monday, and it's paid off."

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Wooster beat Kenyon 76-57 on Wednesday. Wabash (12-7, 8-4) trails Wooster by a half game. Wittenberg plays Wooster again on Feb. 15 in Springfield and plays at Wabash on Feb. 19.

Before getting to that important stretch, Wittenberg plays two road games: at Kenyon (6-14, 3-10) on Saturday and at Ohio Wesleyan (11-9, 6-7) next Wednesday.

The dominance Wittenberg showed Wednesday gives it hope it will be playing its best basketball in the final weeks of the regular season.

"I think we're moving toward it," Croci said. "I think they are consistently willing to defend, and the second time through the league, we know everybody and they know us, so there's a heightened sense of focus. We're an experienced team. They know what February is like and how you need to perform."

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