College Basketball

Little Giants headed to Championship game for third straight season


Wabash avenged their last home loss and took the next step towards a NCAC tournament title with a 78-63 win over Denison.

It is now 11 straight for the Little Giants and two of three this season against the Big Red, as they never trailed in the win, which moves them to 19-8 on the season and send sends them into the championship game against Wooster Saturday afternoon.

Denison finished their season at 15-12.

All the things that have made the Little Giants successful since January 13 was all over Chadwick Court in the semifinal win.

Solid shooting, more solid defense and very few turnovers laid the groundwork.

One make under 50 percent from the floor (25-of-51), 79 percent from the line, and lots of them (23-of-29) fueled the offense that has been averaging 85 points a game since Feb. 1.

The Big Red found the rims as unfriendly as the Chadwick Crazies, who will need lots of tea and honey before the championship game to get throats ready.

The visitors finished at 33 percent from the field (18-of-54) and 30 percent from deep, although they took a lot of them (8-of 27). They did take and make a lot of free throws (19-of-24).

Finishing the look at the stats, the Little Giants were plus-6 in points off turnovers, plus-14 in paint points and plus-13 in bench points.”

“We got really good play off the bench,” Wabash coach Kyle Brumett said. “You have Edreece Redmond, Rich Brooks and Randy Kelly who were a combined 14-of-15 from the line. They played great.”

Also off the bench was junior Noah Hupmann, who had seven points, six rebounds and four blocks, giving the 7-2 junior 11 rejections in this week’s two tournament games. With the seven blocks Tuesday, he tied the NCAC record for blocks in a tournament game and broke the Wabash single-season record. The 11 blocks in the tournament are a new individual tournament record

“He is getting more minutes in the second half of the season because he brings so much physicality,” Brummet said. “He is a piece of why we are doing so much better – we are playing way better defense and we are rebounding so much better. He is one of those reasons, and another is that he and Avery Beaver have such a good basketball rhythm. Avery knows when Noah is open and knows how to use him offensively.”

Beaver was one of three Wabash players with 12 points, and the senior was team-best with three assists.

“In my opinion, he is the best player in the league,” Brummet noted.

Sam Comer and Redmond were the other guys with the dozen. Comer had a game-best nine rebounds, leading the Little Giants to a 37-31 rebound advantage.

Leading the scoring, however, was Vinny Buccilla. The junior finished with 14 points, and added five boards, two assists and two steals.

It was all Wabash in the first half, as the Little Giants worked to a 46-25 halftime lead.

The second half turned into a foul-session, as Denison got more physical in trying to chip away at the lead.

“We had a really good first half,” Brummet said. “We guarded them like crazy and they only got four free throws. In the first half, we got a lot of offensive rebounds and second chance points. Denison really worked to take away our three-point shooting, and that left a lot of open lanes for layups.”

The semifinal win sets up a Wooster-Wabash tournament championship matchup for the third straight season.

The Little Giants have won the last two, an overtime win at Chadwick Court two seasons ago, and a one-point win at Wooster last season.

Wabash won the regular-season title, and the No.1 seed, with a 91-81 win over the Fighting Scots last Saturday.

“It’s urgency and effort,” Brummet said of the late-season streak, conference title and a berth in the tournament championship game. “It’s defense, rebounding and hitting the open shots. We are playing so much better as a team because all the guys are playing better.” There isn’t any secret to beating Wooster – they are a great team and we have to do the things we did last Saturday. We have to take away the three’s from (Jamir) Billings and (Ashton) Price, and we have to limit their big guys (Nick) Everett and (EJ) Kapihe. Last Saturday we hit 15 threes’, so making a few is important again.”

The championship game tips off at 4 p.m. at Chadwick Court. Cost is $10 per adult.

Wooster 79, Whittenberg 62

Wooster will be looking for their 18th NCAC Tournament championship after a blazing finish knocked out the Tigers.

Whittenberg tied the game at 57 with a field goal at 9:29 left in the game.

It was the last field goal of the night for the Tigers, as Wooster’s 22-5 run showed them the door.

Price led the way with 26 points followed by Billings with 17 and Everett with 12. Kapihe had 11 off the bench. The Fighting Scots were 47 percent from the floor, 32 percent from deep and 62 percent from the line. They held a 14-rebound margin and were plus-nine in points off turnovers.

Wittenberg finishes their season 18-9, while Wooster moves on with an 18-9 mark.