The grind of the men’s college basketball season is in full swing and for the Wabash College Little Giants they were back at Chadwick Court on Wednesday for another North Coast Athletic Conference battle with the Kenyon Owls. Kenyon was coming off their first win of the season last Saturday, a 73-71 win over DePauw and looked to bring that upset-minded mentality into Crawfordsville. For the first four minutes, it looked like the game would be close throughout. The visiting Owls jumped out to a 7-2 lead at the first media timeout but the Wabash settled in. A Vinny Buccilla three gave Wabash the lead for good at 14-11 and after that, the Little Giants cruised to what ended up as a dominating 76-50 win.
In the win Buccilla tied his career high with 26 points on 10-16 from the field as the junior guard made 6-10 shots from beyond the three point line.
“With me this season it’s been all about staying confident,” Buccilla said. “The start of the this year hasn’t the best for me but my teammates have all the confidence in me and have told me to keep shooting. I know that I can hit shots and that they’re going to fall eventually. It’s been a little weird coming off the bench but I know that recently it’s been my job to bring that energy when I come in and once I saw the first one fall, I knew it was going to be a good night.”
Wabash coach Kyle Brumett mentioned how in every game his teams plays the first four minutes is always a feeling out process, especially when they’re seeing a team for the first time. After that initial surge by the Owls to begin the game, his team settled in and the rest was history.
“You have to feel out every team because every single game is going to be different,” Brumett said. “We’ll have a much better idea of what these guys like to do and are capable of when we play them again and that goes for every team we play in conference. I wasn’t happy with the first four minutes, but more than that I wasn’t happy with our reaction to just feeling the game out rather than what the score was. The best thing that happened to us was some of the guys who hadn’t gotten it going yet (pointed to Buccilla) came off the bench and got it going. As a whole that unit we brought off the bench (Buccilla, Noah Hupmann, and Nate Matelic) really got us going.”
To back up Brumett’s point for the game the Wabash bench plus-minus was outstanding. With the 7’2 Hupmann out on the floor, his plus-minus on the night was +39, Buccilla’s was +35, and Matelic’s was +20. Along with Buccilla’s game-high 26 points, Sam Comer had a very efficient night going 6-8 from the floor to score 15. Ahmoni Jones added 14, Rich Brooks eight, and in the closing minutes of the game, Chadwick Court erupted when senior Avery Beaver came in immediately made a three and ended the game with five. The Little Giants as a team shot 31-63 (49.2%) from the floor in the win. They made 9-26 (34.6%) from three and 5-6 from the foul line. They grabbed 37 rebounds and turned the ball over just nine times.
The win marked the fourth time this season the Little Giants have held their opponents under 60 total points. This year’s Wabash team has now flipped the script from previous teams and is a defensive-minded team. Brumett spoke again on that mindset for his team and how they’ve changed the focus for this group to maximize it’s potential.
“With how we played in year’s past, our margin for error was very slim because we could score but we’d struggle to get stops,” Brumett said. “This season that margin for error has grown because this group is committed to playing great defense and being willing to guard you for a full 40 minutes it’s wearing teams out much more than it has normally. They (Kenyon) ended up shooting just 4-21 from three and 6-12 from the line. It’s fatigue from how hard we’re playing defensively and I’m proud that these guys are buying into it.”
Wabash improves 7-2 (3-0 NCAC) with the win and thanks to DePauw beating Wittenberg (73-60) on Wednesday, the Little Giants now are alone atop the North Coast Athletic Conference. That doesn’t change the fact that the Little Giants have the biggest game yet of their conference season on Saturday when they travel to Wittenberg, a place they lost in overtime a year ago 58-56.
“We know they’re going to be ready to for us and we’re going to see this chance as a revenge game,” Buccilla said. “I know we’ll be ready to go.”
Wabash also played its last home game of 2023 on Wednesday. Along with Wittenberg on Saturday, they’ll travel to compete in the Catholic University Holiday Classic on Dec. 19-20 vs Catholic University and Eastern University. December 30 they’ll travel to take on Washington University in St. Louis. Wabash will be back at Chadwick Court on January 3 for an NCAC battle with Denison.