SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — The Wittenberg Tigers started the game on a 16-0 run and then held off a stern challenge from visiting Kean University to register a 74-60 victory in the semifinals of the 2010 Charles B. Zimmerman Memorial Classic.
The win moved Wittenberg back above .500 at 5-4 overall, heading into a championship game opposite Taylor University at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 30. The Tigers have appeared in 26 of the previous 27 title games in the tournament's history, winning 23 championships. This will be the third time in the last six years that Wittenberg and Taylor have played in the tournament - Wittenberg beat the Trojans in the 2004 championship game and Taylor beat the Tigers by two in a 2008 semifinal match-up. That is Wittenberg's lone semifinal loss in the tournament's history.
Kean, which fell to 8-4 on the season, started the game ice-cold, turning the ball over on its first two possessions and failing to convert an offensive possession until the 13:28 mark. By then, Wittenberg had built the aforementioned 16-point lead, which the Tigers then stretched to 20 points on two occasions shortly before halftime.
Using a frenetic full-court pressing defense, Kean whittled the lead down to five at 56-51 at the 7:10 mark, but the Tigers settled down and turned the game back in their favor on a three-point play by junior Clayton Black (Lancaster, Ohio/Lancaster). Down the stretch, the Tigers made just enough free throws and played solid defense to preserve the win.
Wittenberg shot 49 percent from the field in the game, compared to 40 percent for Kean. Both teams made six three-pointers, but the big disparity came at the free throw line. Despite shooting a woeful 45 percent from the charity stripe, the Tigers outscored Kean 14-2 on free throws.
Individually, the Tigers were paced by 16 points and six rebounds from Black, while senior Chris Sullivan (Columbus, Ohio/Upper Arlington) chipped in with 14 points and four boards. Also of note, junior Jacob Weide (Fort Wayne, Ind./Homestead)contributed a career-high-tying 14 points to go along with five rebounds in 15 productive minutes off the bench, and junior Michael Cooper (Springfield, Ohio/South) played a fine all-around game with eight points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
Kean's Jonathan Jones used his long frame to lead all scorers with 23 points, in addition to 10 rebounds. He hit 11-of-14 shots from the field, almost all from close range off good feeds from the team's guards.
Kean returns to action in the tournament's consolation game at 2:15 p.m. Thursday. The Cougars will take on Heidelberg, which lost 81-65 to Taylor in the tournament's first semifinal.