SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — Nothing came easy for the Wittenberg Tigers, but few things of value in life ever do. When the dust had settled at Pam Evans Smith Arena, the Tigers had themselves a 68-59 North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) victory over Hiram and a share of first place in the league standings.
Wittenberg is now 5-0 in the NCAC, equalling the mark of the No. 1 team in the nation, Wooster. Overall, the Tigers are now 9-4 and are riding a five-game winning streak, while Hiram dropped to 7-7 overall and 1-4 in the conference.
The Tigers led 7-2 in the early going, but Hiram battled back to take a 10-8 lead to set the stage for an entertaining, fast-paced first half. Wittenberg ended the opening 20 minutes on an 11-5 run, moving from a 26-25 lead at the 6:01 mark to a 37-30 at intermission.
The lead reached 11 early in the second half, but the Terriers worked the difference back to two points with 7:21 remaining. The Tigers answered with a decisive 9-0 run as four different players scored to move the lead from 53-51 to 62-51 with just 2:36 remaining.
The Tigers hit 40 percent from the field, including 15-of-28 in the first half. They overcame 21 percent shooting over the final 20 minutes thanks to 22-of-32 from the free throw line in the second half alone. Overall, Wittenberg finished 26-of-38 from the charity stripe, compared to 6-of-9 for Hiram.
Individually, junior Clayton Black (Lancaster, Ohio/Lancaster) led the way with 19 points and four rebounds in 32 quality minutes. Junior Michael Cooper (Springfield, Ohio/South) added 11 points and a team-high nine boards, while senior Chris Sullivan (Columbus, Ohio/Upper Arlington) contributed 11 points and seven rebounds. Also of note was the play off the bench of senior Seth Hill (Bellefontaine, Ohio/Bellefontaine), who finished with six points on 2-of-2 from the field and from the line, and five rebounds, including a pair of clutch boards in the closing minutes.
Hiram was pestered into 34 percent shooting from the field, including 5-of-21 from three-point range. Wittenberg held a 43-42 rebounding edge, although the Terriers committed just nine turnovers to Wittenberg's 12.