BLOOMINGTON IL -- The train just keeps on rolling for Wabash Basketball. After winning both games last weekend in the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament, Wabash found themselves making in the round of 16 as they took on Williams College at Illinois Wesleyan University. It did take awhile for the Little Giants to find their rhythm on offense, but mid-way through the second half, Wabash used a 20-0 run to run away from Williams and secure a 73-59 win to move on to the Elite Eight. The 59 points for the Little Giants is the fewest they’ve allowed in a game all season.
“We took our defense to another level tonight,” Wabash coach Kyle Brumett said of the win. “It took us a little longer stretch tonight to find our flurry to be able to put them away.”
The first half was a half that favored Williams for the most part as the Little Giants struggled from the field early. Williams had built an eight point lead at 23-15, but the Wabash clawed their way back into the game and tied at 29 with the ball on the last possession of the half, Jack Davidson found freshman Vinny Bucilla in the right corner for a go-ahead three to give the LIttle Giants a 32-29 lead going into the locker room.
Ahmoni Jones led all scorers in the game with 20 points including 4-7 from behind the arc as he was one of four Little Giants in double figures. Kellen Schreiber battled down low against Williams’ bigs all night long and had an excellent game recording a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Tyler Watson flirted with triple double by scoring 14 points and grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out nine assists. Davidson ended the game with just 11 points but also dished out eight assists to go along with six rebounds.
“Kellen really allowed us to weather their start with how well he played in the first half,” Brumett said. “He had another stretch where he was able to lead us again. Then Jack and Tyler tonight were able to combine for 17 assists. It wasn’t the greatest scoring night for them, but we’ve started to coach them to be willing to share it like they did tonight. To see those guys evolve, read the game and play it the right way, and to trust their teammates. That was very rewarding to see tonight and it allowed us to separate from another really good team.”
The Little Giants truly lived up to their name in the rebounding department against Williams in the win. Out-sized at every spot on the court, Wabash out-rebounded Williams 37-32. The Little Giants made eight threes to just two for Williams.
“It goes to the urgency that our guys have,” Brumett said. “Their will to win, their will to play, and their will to do whatever it takes in order to win. Whether that be score 90 or grind out a game and win the rebounding and turnover battle, they’re willing to do whatever it takes and I thought that was on full display tonight.”
With Illinois Wesleyan only being about a two hour drive from Crawfordsville, the atmosphere inside the arena felt like a Wabash home game at Chadwick Court. The support is nothing new for the LIttle Giants who have had their fans, alumni, and students make the trip no matter where they have been playing.
“It was rocking tonight,” Brumett said of the fans and their support. “It was very pro-Wabash tonight and they gave our guys lifts throughout when we needed it. It was a lot of fun to have them there and we are so appreciative of the following and we expect it to be rocking again tomorrow.”
With the win Wabash improves to 27-3 on the season and sees their historic winning streak now sit at 23 straight. The Little Giants will be back in action this evening taking on host Illinois Wesleyan who defeated Wheaton in the second semi-final. The winner will earn a berth in the final four next Friday in Ft. Wayne.
“They have one of the best players in the country and he might be the best center in the country,” Brumett said of the Titans big man Matthew Leritz. “We know how good these guys are. They are a nationally recognized D3 team. It’s going to be a tough battle on the road but we’re up for the challenge at this point. When you get to this point there’s no easy games.”
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