The College of Wooster’s men’s basketball team wasn’t going to be denied in longtime coach Steve Moore’s final North Coast Athletic Conference championship game.
The Scots shot nearly 58 percent from the field, beating No. 4 Wittenberg University 87-63 in the North Coast Athletic Conference championship game on Saturday afternoon at Pam Evans Smith Arena. With the victory, Wooster secured an automatic berth to the NCAA Division III tournament.
“Our guys just wanted it,” said Moore, a 1974 Wittenberg graduate who won his 17th NCAC tournament title. “Getting into the national tournament by winning the tournament is what it’s all about. We always have a goal to play in March.”
Connor Seipel scored 18 points, James Johnson had 11 and Jake Bertemes added 10 for Wittenberg. Johnson and Seipel were both named to the NCAC All-Tournament Team.
The Tigers, who won the regular season NCAC title with a 17-1 record, finished the regular season 26-2 with both losses coming to its biggest rival.
“It’s a credit to them, they kicked our butts,” said Wittenberg coach Matt Croci. “They executed better, they defended better. We just really couldn’t get a whole lot going. They just outplayed us tonight.”
Wittenberg will now look to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament field. The selection show starts at 12:30 p.m. Monday and can be watched on NCAA.com.
“We’ll keep our fingers crossed,” Croci said. “You just never know what could happen. There’s not a lot of spots available for the national tournament. I think we’ve done enough, but that’s the position we’ve put ourselves in. We’ve got to wait 48 hours and see what happens next.”
Wooster senior Danyon Hempy scored 29 points, earning the NCAC tournament Most Valuable Player award. Senior Trenton Tipton scored 22 points and was also named to the NCAC tournament team.
The Scots led 37-34 at the half. They jumped out to a 49-40 lead on three straight 3-pointers, including two from Keonn Scott. Wooster shot 8-for-15 from behind the 3-point line.
“Our guys were very confident, that’s an understatement,” Moore said. “They really wanted it. They wanted it for the program and to keep the streak of playing in the national tournament.”
Wittenberg cut the lead to 49-45, but couldn’t get closer. The Scots went on a 12-1 run to take a 16-point lead at 61-45.
“They played like a team that was trying to play their way into the NCAA tournament,” Croci said. “They just had a little bit bigger chip on their shoulder than we did. I thought our guys played hard and competed, we just didn’t play very well and that’s pretty much a credit to (Wooster).”
The Wittenberg women’s basketball team ended its season on Friday night, falling to Denison 60-52 in the NCAC tournament semifinals. The Tigers finished 19-8.
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