Outlook: The College of Wooster (21-5, 14-4 North Coast Athletic Conference) takes on Ohio Wesleyan University (18-8, 12-6 NCAC) in the second semifinal of the 2018 NCAC Tournament at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Wittenberg University's Pam Evans Smith Arena in Springfield, Ohio. Host Wittenberg (24-2, 16-2 NCAC) takes on Denison University (15-11, 11-7 NCAC) in the first semifinal at 5:30 p.m. Saturday's championship game is set to take place at 4 p.m. at Wittenberg. This year marks the second consecutive time the previous season's championship game teams will meet in the semifinals as last year, Wooster topped Denison 87-77 at Ohio Wesleyan's Branch Rickey Arena in the semifinal round.
Media Coverage: Wooster's semifinal game will be streamed live at http://www.wittenbergtigers.com/broadcast/wyplge. Mike Breckenridge's call of the game can be heard on WQKT 104.5 FM and online at http://wqkt.com. Fans can also follow the live stats link at http://woosterathletics.com and check for periodic score updates on the men's basketball team's Twitter account @ScotsBasketball. MCTV customers in Wayne and Stark Counties can catch the tape-delay broadcasts starting at 10 p.m. on Saturday on Ch. 22 and 11 p.m. on Ch. 621, and at other times throughout the weekend and Monday.
Ticket Information: Ticket prices for the NCAC Tournament are set by the conference office. NCAC lifetime passes are honored with free admission to all NCAC championship events. Adult tickets are $10, children (18 and under), NCAC guest pass, and student (non-NCAC institution ID) tickets are $5, and all NCAC students (with ID) are admitted free of charge. As Pam Evans Smith Arena has a capacity over 2,000, the gymnasium will not be cleared between Friday's semifinal games, and one ticket is good for both of Friday's contests. Saturday's championship ticket prices are the same as Friday's semifinal prices. Ticket sales will start at 4:30 p.m.
NCAC Tournament History: Wooster has won the NCAC Tournament a league-best 16 times, and in fact, that total is more than two times greater than Wittenberg's six league crowns. Wooster enters the semifinals with a 70-17 all-time record in the NCAC Tournament, including 25-3 in the semifinals. Wooster's in search of its 10th straight appearance in the championship game, and the Scots have played in the championship game each year since 1997 with the exception of 2008. The Scots are 11-4 all-time in the NCAC Tournament when playing at neutral sites, and 5-4 when playing a true road game in the league tourney. After Tuesday's win, the Scots are now 24-5 all-time when playing as the No. 2 seed, and this year marks the 21st straight season Wooster's been either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed for the NCAC Tournament.
Tuesday's Recap: Wooster won its 22nd consecutive NCAC Tournament quarterfinal game 70-63 over DePauw University at Timken Gymnasium. First-year Keonn Scott (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./Cardinals Gibbons) sparked the Scots with a desperation 3-pointer that fell in off the glass at the first-half buzzer to pull Wooster within two. Wooster, which shot under 40 percent in the opening half, heated up from there and checked in at 55.2 percent (16-for-29) over the final 20 minutes of action. Defensively, the Scots ramped up the intensity as well with Wooster holding DePauw to under 40 percent (11-for-29) from the floor in the second half.
Last Week's Recap: Wooster won its 20th game for a 22nd straight season 81-79 over Kenyon College on Wednesday. The Scots' win didn't come easily as Wooster had to overcome a 15-point second-half deficit against the Lords. Sophomore Danyon Hempy (Waldo, Ohio/River Valley) scored a career-high 30 points - 24 of which came in the second half. Hempy was instrumental down the stretch, starting with the game-tying bucket with 2:32 to go that knotted the tilt at 69. The sophomore ultimately put Wooster on top with a 3-pointer that made it 72-70 with 1:20 remaining. Of note, Wooster's win kept the Scots tied with Duke University for the second-longest active streak of 20-win seasons among all NCAA men's basketball programs. Kansas University leads the way with a remarkable streak of 29 straight 20-win seasons. Thanks to the Scots' win, plus Ohio Wesleyan's 85-80 win over Wittenberg, the stage was set for the Scots to vie for a share of the NCAC championship on Saturday. Wooster came out on the short end of the latest instant classic against Wittenberg as the Tigers' Jacob Bertemes nailed a game-tying 3-pointer with :00.5 left in regulation, and sank the game-winning free throw on an old-school three-point play with :00.3 to go in overtime.
Wooster-Ohio Wesleyan Rivalry Heating Up: Those familiar with Wooster and Wittenberg's basketball programs know the well-documented history in one of small college basketball's top rivalries. After all, the two programs are the winningest ones in Div. III with well over 3,400 all-time victories between them, and Wooster's all-time lead in the series was trimmed to 59-57 after the eighth overtime game and 47th contest to be decided on by five points or fewer after last Saturday's instant classic. However, the Wooster-Ohio Wesleyan series has ramped up of late in terms of storylines too. The last three games between the Scots and Battling Bishops have been decided on by a combined 10 points, starting with last year's 76-72 win in the championship game of the NCAC Tournament. This year, Wooster's 73-70 win at Ohio Wesleyan on Jan. 6 marked the 100th by the Scots in series history, and the Black and Gold won another three-point thriller 75-72 on Feb. 10.
Counting Turnovers on One Hand (or Two Hands): Wooster's success this season can be attributed to a few things in particular - ball handling, defense, and rebounding. During Tuesday's win over DePauw, Wooster logged a season-low four turnovers, the fewest since the Scots turned it over four times during a 104-97 win over Wittenberg on Jan. 17, 2015. Earlier this year, Wooster turned it over five times at Oberlin College back on Jan. 31, and up until the final :40, the Scots were on pace to log their fewest turnovers since having three against Dickinson College in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Div. III Championships. On the season, Wooster's turned it over nine or fewer times in nine games with a high of 13 over the last 13 contests. During that stretch, Wooster's averaged 8.6 turnovers per game.
Mr. Consistent: Senior Spencer Williams (Warrensville Hts., Ohio/Orange) surpassed 400 points on the season during last Wednesday's win versus Kenyon. In doing so, Williams is the seventh Scot in program history to have three seasons with at least 400 points. During Wooster's 65-57 win over DePauw on Jan. 27, Williams became the 10th player in program history to surpass 1,500 career points, and he enters play today eighth all-time with 1,608 points.
The Cardiac Crew: Wooster's played in more than its fair share of tight games this year as 15 of the Scots' 21 wins have been decided on by 10 points or fewer, and Wooster's had the outcome of six games come down to a single possession. Among the one-possession wins is a 76-75 comeback over Worcester Polytechnic Institute on Dec. 29 that saw the Scots rally back from a 17-point second-half deficit. Also in there is a 73-70 win over Denison on Feb. 3, a game in which Hempy knocked down the go-ahead 3-pointer with :03.7 remaining.
Block Party: Wooster's logged nine games with at least six blocked shots on the year, including six of the last nine games. The Scots' season-long block party got rolling back on Nov. 25 during an 87-79 win over then-No. 4 Hanover College. Against the Panthers, the Scots blocked 12 shot, five of which came from junior Eric Bulic (Brunswick, Ohio/Brunswick) in what marked the most blocks for Wooster since it had a dozen against Allegheny College on Jan. 26, 2005. Most recently, senior Alex Baptiste (Allonnes, France/Wasatch Academy (Utah)) recorded three swats on Saturday to move into the top 10 in program history with 90 career blocks, and he since added one on Tuesday. Baptiste leads the NCAC with 1.5 blocks per game, and Hempy enters the weekend third at 1.2 per night.
Simply Put, Wooster Must Win the Rebounding Battle: Wooster's outrebounded the opposition in 23 of its 26 games on the year, and the Scots are 21-2 when finishing ahead of the opposition in rebounds. Wooster didn't finish with an edge in that stat in either meeting with Wittenberg this year as the two teams logged 34 rebounds each in the first meeting, while the Tigers finished with a 42-34 advantage in that stat last week Saturday. Saint John Fisher College is the only other opponent to finish with a positive rebounding margin against Wooster this year.
Wooster is the Only NCAC Team With Two in the Top Five in Rebounding: Baptiste and Bulic have combined for 376 rebounds on the year with Baptiste sporting a seven-rebound lead (192-185) on the team heading into play on Friday night. The duo ranks third and fourth respectively in the conference at 7.4 and 7.1 board per night, and the Scots are the only team in the NCAC with a pair of players in the top five in rebounding.