Despite a late second-half run, Denison's comeback fell just short as they dropped a 75-68 decision to North Coast Athletic Conference foe Wittenberg on Saturday afternoon at Livingston Gymnasium in Granville.
It was a close contest throughout the opening six minutes before a 12-2 Tiger run opened up a 21-11 lead with 11:51 left in the first half. Now down by 11 with just over five minutes to play, the Big Red orchestrated a run that shrunk the deficit to five at the intermission. Devon Pitts and Andrew Castagnetti knocked down a jumper and a 3-pointer, respectively, off assists from sophomore Garrett Collier on back-to-back possessions. On DU's next trip down the floor, the sophomore guard took it to the hole himself to close the gap to 31-27. Wittenberg was able to rebuild an eight-point advantage inside the final minute, but a David Meurer three with four seconds on the clock set the score at 41-36 at the break.
Denison made it a one-possession game when Pitts hit a short-range jumper in the paint off a pass from Meurer on the first possession of the second period. The Tigers answered that bucket with a 14-2 burst that spanned almost four minutes and resulted in a 15-point lead.
Trailing by 12 after a pair of Jaelin Williams free throws with 12:40 on the clock, Meurer began to take the offense over, producing points in three-consecutive possessions. Denison made it points in four-straight trips down the floor when Darius White knocked down two at the line to shrink the deficit to six with 10:29 to go.
After a Big Red timeout, Meurer drove the lane, scored and drew a Chris Sloneker foul. The lead was cut to five after the junior completed the old-fashioned three-point play. Down nine, Castagnetti drained a triple, while a White steal on the ensuing possession eventually resulted in a pair of free throws by Jett Speelman. Down by five, Pitts capped off the 19-9 run with a triple off an assist from Meurer that made it a two-point game at 66-64.
Williams and Alex Fultz answered for Wittenberg with a layup and 3-pointer, respectively. Williams extended the lead with a running jumper that found the bottom of the basket and drew a foul. After converting the free throw attempt, the Tigers led by eight with 26 seconds to play. Meurer hit a pair at the stripe, but a split at the line by Williams made it a three-possession game with 16 seconds on the clock.
Meurer paced the Big Red with 20 points, four assists and three steals, while Castagnetti chipped in 13 points. Pitts finished with nine tallies and six rebounds, while Collier added eight points, four assists and two boards in 12 minutes off the bench. Bauer also grabbed six rebounds, dished out two assists and blocked one shot.
Williams led all scorers with 22 points, while Chad Roy and Shane Edwards had 14 and 11 points, respectively. Williams and Edwards also pulled down eight rebound each.
Denison falls to 5-4 on the year and 2-2 in the NCAC, while Wittenberg improves to 6-2 and 3-1 in league play. The Big Red will take a two and a half week break from competition for the holidays, returning to action on Dec. 30 when they host Ohio Northern at 7 p.m.