No. 25 Tigers Win 98-94 OT Thriller at OWU

Senior Mitch Balser scored 20 points to help lead No. 25 Wittenberg in a 98-94 OT win at Ohio Wesleyan
Senior Mitch Balser scored 20 points to help lead No. 25 Wittenberg in a 98-94 OT win at Ohio Wesleyan

Delaware, Ohio – Sophomore forward James Johnson sank a pair of free throws in the final seconds of regulation to even the score at 82-82 against Ohio Wesleyan, and the 25th-ranked Tigers proceeded to outscore OWU by a 16-12 margin in the extra session to post a 98-94 win over the upset-minded Bishops on Wednesday night inside the Branch Rickey Arena. Now at the midway point of the NCAC schedule, the Tigers hold an overall record of 12-4 and sit in third-place in the league standings with a 6-3 mark against conference foes.

How It Happened

After Johnson's last-second free throws sent the game into overtime, the Tigers scored the first six points of the extra session, capped off by junior Jacob Bertemes converting a layup with 3:23 left in OT to put Wittenberg up 88-82. The Bishops did pull within two, 92-90, with 1:08 left on a pair of free throws from Curtis White, but after another Bertemes layup with 53 seconds left, senior Mitchell Balser and junior Jordan Pumroy combined to shoot 4-for-4 from the charity stripe down the stretch to secure the four-point victory.

The back-and-fourth affair between the two squads featured 21 lead changes and 11 total ties, with Wittenberg holding its largest lead of the night, 21-14, midway through the first half on a three-pointer from Bertemes at the 10:50 mark. However, the Bishops quickly chipped away at that lead and ultimately sent the game into halftime with an even scoreline of 38-38.

The Bishops held their biggest lead of the night at 68-61 with 7:39 left in regulation, but a Balser jumper and Bertemes three-pointer quickly brought the margin back to two with 6:47 showing on the clock. The two squads clawed back-and-fourth over the final six-plus minutes and OWU appeared primed for the upset as an Ethan Stanislawski layup gave the Bishops an 82-80 lead with 19 seconds left.

After Balser missed a three-point attempt on Wittenberg's next possession, the Tigers quickly committed two fouls to put OWU's Grant Gossard at the line with four seconds left in the game. Gossard missed the front end of the try, leading to freshman Levi Boettcher grabbing the rebound and throwing a baseball pass down court to Johnson. After hauling in the pass, Johnson was fouled by OWU's Gabe Johnson, ultimately sending him to the charity stripe where he sank a pair of must-make free throw attempts to send the game into overtime.

By The Numbers

Four of Wittenberg's five starters scored in double-figures in the overtime contest, led by Bertemes finishing with a game-high 22 points after shooting 9-of-13 from the field, 2-of-2 from beyond the arc and 2-of-2 from the free throw line. Johnson and Balser also topped the 20-point plateau on the night with 21 and 20, respectively, while junior Connor Seipel notched his 10th double-double of the season with 16 points and 14 boards on the night.

The Tigers dominated the game in the paint, outscoring the Bishops by a 52-30 margin down low, while also shooting at a clip of 54 percent (39-of-72) from the field, compared to just 45 percent (34-of-75) from the field for OWU. Wittenberg also held a narrow 42-39 edge in the rebounding margin, while both teams committed 11 turnovers in the 45-minute affair.

Up Next

Wittenberg remains on the road for its next two conference games, first taking on Oberlin on Saturday (1/19) at 2:00 p.m., before visiting DePauw on Wednesday (1/23) night for a 7:00 p.m. tip off against the Indiana Tigers.