SPRINGFIELD, Ohio – It may have taken a career-high 26 points from junior Scott Masin (New Carlisle, Ohio/Bethel), but the Wittenberg men's basketball team finally shook a particularly pesky monkey from its back with a 68-62 win at Hiram.
The Tigers, who had lost in their last four appearances in Hiram's Price Gymnasium, cinched a part of a three-way tie for fourth place in the final North Coast Athletic Conference regular season standings, splitting the spot with DePauw and Kenyon.
The Tigers enter the NCAC Tournament as the fifth seed, set to face fourth seed DePauw on Tuesday, Feb. 19, in Greencastle, Ind. It will be Wittenberg's 24th consecutive appearance in the conference tournament since joining in 1989-90, looking to defend a 21-2 record in the quarterfinal round.
Masin fell just one rebound short of his 13th double-double of the season, finishing the game with 26 points, nine rebounds and two steals. He went a solid 8-of-12 from the field and tied a season high with 10 made free throws in 13 attempts.
The Tigers and Terriers played 40 minutes of tight basketball with neither team leading by more than six at any point. Hiram earned a six-point advantage late in the first half, and the Tigers' largest lead of six coming on a Masin free throw with 25 seconds left in the game, establishing the final margin.
Wittenberg led 32-27 at halftime, but Hiram tied things up at 36-36 at the 14:25 mark. After a short back-and-forth sequence, the Terriers took a 41-40 lead with 11:50 remaining. The advantage held for nearly seven minutes before a three-pointer from junior Steven Newell (Englewood, Ohio/Northmont) briefly reversed it.
Hiram answered with a trey by Justin Wisniewski to retake the lead just 24 seconds later, but Masin put the Tigers back on top 56-55 with 4:14 to go. Hiram again looked to Wisniewski, who evened the score at 58-all with a three-pointer, but after Newell returned the favor, Wittenberg would not relinquish the lead again.
A pair of Masin free throws, a three-pointer by freshman Alex Fultz (Cincinnati, Ohio/Glen Este) and additional free throws by junior Zack Leahy (Rossford, Ohio/Rossford) and Masin sealed the deal as the Tigers held Hiram scoreless over the final 1:49.
As a team, Wittenberg was 23-of-49 from the field for a 47 percent shooting performance while outrebounding Hiram 35-31.
Sophomore Ben Syroka (Toledo, Ohio/Whitmer) dropped in 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting, including three from beyond the arc, and Fultz matched Syroka's 11 points with 4-for-5 shooting, including an impressive 3-for-3 from three-point range.
Newell chipped in 10 points, while sophomore Sam Collins (Cleveland Heights, Ohio/Cleveland Heights) grabbed eight rebounds and sophomore John Albertson (Morrow, Ohio/Little Miami) posted totals of seven rebounds and six points in a productive 10 minutes on the floor. Leahy added three assists to the mix.