While four losses in nine games in January kept the Wittenberg Tigers from repeating as North Coast Athletic Conference regular-season champions, a perfect February has given them the confidence they can reclaim their NCAC tournament crown.
“We’ve won a few in a row here, and we feel good about who we’ve beaten and most importantly how we’ve played,” said Wittenberg coach Matt Croci last week after a 76-62 victory against Wabash in Springfield, “and we just want to keep it going.”
Led by Connor Seipel’s 28 points on 12-of-14 shooting, the Tigers (20-5, 14-4) won 92-71 at Hiram (12-13, 9-9) in their regular-season finale Saturday. They take a seven-game winning streak into a 6 p.m. Tuesday game against Ohio Wesleyan (12-13, 7-11) in the NCAC quarterfinals at Pam Evans Smith Arena. Wittenberg beat Ohio Wesleyan 98-94 in overtime Jan. 16 in Delaware and 91-58 on Feb. 6 in Springfield.
If the top seeds advance, No. 2 seed Wittenberg will play No. 3 seed Wabash (20-5, 14-4) in the semifinals Friday at Wooster’s Timken Gymnasium and then No. 1 seed Wooster (21-4, 16-2) in the championship game Saturday.
The Tigers beat Ohio Wesleyan 82-70 in the championship game last season in Springfield to win the tournament for the first time since 2006. It last won the event twice in a row in 2005 and 2006.
“One thing I appreciate about this team is the confidence level,” senior Mitch Balser said. “It never really wavers, but something that’s kind of going back on our shoulders is that chip. We’ve got to get that chip back on our shoulders. We’ve got to go out every night ready to prove something.”
» 2018 NCAC FINAL PHOTOS: Tigers beat Ohio Wesleyan
Women’s tournament: The Tigers (17-8, 11-5) earned the No. 4 seed in the NCAC tournament and will host No. 5 seed Oberlin (15-10. 10-6) at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the quarterfinals. Wittenberg takes a five-game winning streak into the postseason.
If Wittenberg advances, it will play No. 1 seed DePauw (21-4, 15-1) or No. 8 seed Allegheny (6-19, 2-14) on Friday. DePauw will host the semifinals and finals if it wins Tuesday. Wittenberg split two games with Oberlin and DePauw in the regular season.
Wittenberg has already secured its best season since 2014-15 when it finished 24-7 and 12-4 in the NCAC. Sophomore forward Kristie Kalis leads the team with 12.8 points per game. Senior guard Alex Kiess averages 10.2 points.