Wittenberg’s Croci: First loss ‘wakes you up a little bit’

No. 5 Tigers play Ohio Wesleyan and Wooster in final week of regular season

The 22-game winning streak ended Saturday for the Wittenberg Tigers. Coach Matt Croci didn’t care so much about that. Breaking the school record for consecutive victories wasn’t a goal, even if it got everyone talking about his team.

Croci hates losing. The same goes for his players, though they were more disappointed in their performance than the result, a 94-71 loss at Hiram.

“That’s a positive, that they know they didn’t play well and we got beat by a better team that day, ” said Croci’s of his team’s attitude. “It certainly wakes you up a little bit. Everybody’s playing well right now. A lot of teams have a lot to play for, so you’ve got to be ready to go.”

» FOOTBALL: Witt alum joins Ohio State’s staff

The Tigers (22-1, 15-1) fell four victories short of tying the school record. The loss dropped them from No. 3 in the D3Hoops.com poll to No. 5 this week. No. 1 Whitman (23-0) remains the only defeated team. Wittenberg is the only one-loss team.

The defeat also means Wittenberg has to win one of its two remaining regular-season games to win the North Coast Athletic Conference championship outright. Neither game is an easy task. The Tigers play at third-place Ohio Wesleyan (15-8, 10-6) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and host second-place Wooster (19-4, 13-3) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

» RELATED: Winning streak brought back memories for Croci

The Ohio Wesleyan game is difficult enough there’s no worry about Wittenberg looking ahead to the Senior Night game against their biggest rival. Wittenberg beat Ohio Wesleyan at home 93-72 on Jan. 17.

“They’re still the three-time defending league champs, so they’re very good,” Croci said. “They’re very talented. They have seniors who have been through a lot of these big games. We know we’re in for a battle. We’ve got to guard better and execute offensively and know we’re in for a challenge. I think we’ll be up for it.”

» RELATED: Freshman playing key roles for Wittenberg

Wittenberg will have to play better defense than it did at Hiram. Wittenberg allowed 80 or more points in a game once in the first 22 games, and it gave up a season-high 94 to the Terriers. Hiram shot 60.3 percent (35 of 58) from the field and 47.6 percent (10 of 21) from 3-point range.

“We just didn’t defend very well,” Croci said. “They made a lot of shots, but there are some things we have been doing and did not do well on Saturday. Hiram took advantage of it and shot a great percentage. That’s probably the biggest takeaway. We’ve got to get back to guarding with a chip on our shoulder.”

Ticket info: Wittenberg is selling tickets for $5 for the Wooster game at the HPER Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Friday. They are general-admission tickets. Buying tickets ahead of time will allow fans to skip waiting in line Saturday. Students and senior citizens get free tickets with a valid ID.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

Ohio State offers another glimpse of football practice
Ohio State offers another glimpse of football practice

August has been rainy in central Ohio, but the precipitation held off long enough for Ohio State to practice football outside on a humid Saturday morning here.  Members of the media slipped through OSU move-in day traffic to check out roughly 30 minutes of the action.  Like the first and only previous viewing window of this preseason, there...
Dragons comeback bid falls short vs. Lake County
Dragons comeback bid falls short vs. Lake County

The Dayton Dragons have won with a lot of late-inning magic at home this season. Friday night’s game seemed destined for more. But the big hit — the one that would have made the Dragons a winner — and the little dash of luck that could have helped went poof. Not once, but twice. The Dragons had rallied from a five-run deficit in the...
Kenton Ridge beats Northeastern in final preseason tuneup
Kenton Ridge beats Northeastern in final preseason tuneup

The decades-long rivalry between Northeastern and Kenton Ridge saw two firsts on Friday night. For the first time, the game was played at a neutral site. It also won’t count in the standings. Regardless of the location, the Cougars and the Jets offenses put on a show. Kenton Ridge beat Northeastern 41-20 in a jamboree game Friday night, the final...
McCoy: Ervin’s walk-off bomb lifts Reds to extra-inning win over Giants
McCoy: Ervin’s walk-off bomb lifts Reds to extra-inning win over Giants

Pat Kelly was a man caught in the middle — should he go left or should he go right or should he stay right there in the middle. Kelly is the bench coach for the Cincinnati Reds, manager Jim Riggleman’s right hand man. On Friday night, Kelly’s son, Casey Kelly was San Francisco’s starting pitcher against the Reds. “In a...
HS Roundup 8/17: Centerville, Alter finish with draw to open season

Centerville and Alter battled to a 1-1 draw to open the girls soccer season on Friday. Nicoletta Anuci put Alter ahead with a score in the second half, but Sydney Kemp netted the equalizer for Centerville. Girls Soccer Bellbrook 2, Northmont 0: Bailey Sedlak scored the first goal and assisted Sydney Hollingsworth on the second to lead Bellbrook. Chaminade...
More Stories